ALMAGUIN – A local fish hatchery is benefiting from a Quebec company’s guilty plea.
Members of the Almaguin Fish Improvement Association and Ministry of Natural Resources harvesting eggs this spring.
A Quebec resident and live bait wholesale company were fined $1,500 and ordered to pay $1,908 in restitution for bringing live leeches into Ontario from Quebec and illegally selling them to bait retail operators.
The Almaguin Fish Improvement Association is being awarded that restitution. The association has a hatchery in Magnetawan where they work with the Ministry of Natural Resources on a walleye-spawning program to stock Ahmic Lake and Lake Cecebe.
“That is basically what we determined what the profit these guys made on the wholesale value of the sale of the leeches,” said MNR enforcement supervisor Paul Van Schyndel. “We determined what the value was based on our records and we asked the courts to order them to pay that to the AFIA.”
Association president George Brooks is pleased that the supervisor and biologist chose their organization.
“It was a nice surprise. We’re going to set that aside and use it for DNA testing in about three years,” he said.
During walleye egg collection the group takes DNA samples that are set to Trent University for testing. When the lake is fished in two or three years more samples will be sent.
“Hopefully we’ll find a match to prove there is a cycle and we are part of it,” he said.
The testing for that is $4,000 so Brooks says this is a real bonus for the program and means fewer donations need to be sought.
Andre Soucy and his company Les VERS Michel pleaded guilty to charges of bringing live leeches into Ontario for use as bait and selling leeches in Ontario without a commercial bait licence.
On May 24, Justice of the Peace Patrician Tennant heard that from April to August of 2008 to 2010, leeches were brought into the province and sold to a number of bait dealers in Parry Sound and Muskoka.
According to Van Schyndel, investigators continually monitor area bait dealers.
“We found out that somebody had just gotten a load of leeches in so we investigated and found out that these guys were from Quebec,” he said. “We did some monitoring and found out the leeches were from Quebec.”
He said it wasn’t a simple investigation because they wanted to know the scale of who they were delivering to in the district.
“It was a number of bait dealers that they delivered the leeches to,” he said.
He says the Quebec company was a licenced wholesaler but they were not licenced to import leeches.
“Nor would we have allowed them to,” he said.
He says the $1,500 fine was recommended due to the severity of what could have occurred due to the import of the leeches.
“We want to send a clear message to the wholesalers that it is illegal and there are some pretty severe ramifications if you introduce invasive or disease vectors into the province,” he said.
According to Van Schyndel, importing of leeches is restricted in order to prevent potentially invasive species from entering the province or to prevent disease outbreak.