The Surrey-based organization says thousands of sockeye salmon cleaned and apparently prepared for sale are being dumped along riverbanks.
“We are seeing evidence of illegal fish sales all over social media and Craigslist,” said Jesse Zeman, the federation’s executive director, in a news release sent Thursday (Sept. 8).
Zeman said images of dead fish showing up on social media appear to depict rotting Fraser River sockeye salmon, including hundreds of fish abandoned in the harbour at Steveston.
“The BCWF is seeing reports of dumping involving thousands, possibly tens of thousands of fish, which is a symptom of illegal sales on a massive scale,” Zeman stated.
“The fish have spoiled suggesting that there are far more fish on the black market than there are buyers.”
B.C. Wildlife Federation works “to protect and conserve British Columbia’s fish, wildlife and habitat.”
The organziation says the number of spawning sockeye salmon returning to spawn in the Fraser River system is a fraction of the number forecast earlier this year — just 5.5 million fish rather than the 9.8 million forecast.
Fish sold on the black market have not been inspected and may not be properly stored, which can lead to food-borne illness for those who buy and eat the fish, and possibly a trip to prison.
“When you eat fish that haven’t been properly cooled and cared for there’s a very good chance you could get sick,” Zeman cautioned.
“If you are caught with fresh sockeye salmon and you don’t have a sales slip from a licensed purveyor, you will be charged as a poacher.”
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (aka the DFO) shut down its special investigations unit nine years ago, and that concerns people like Randy Nelson, a retired DFO director of conservation and protection.
“I was concerned when the special investigations unit was disbanded because it limited the department’s ability to prosecute major poaching operations,” Nelson says in the BCWF news release.
“Some are very complex and organized, and it requires more than just a casual operation to control. This is major crime and it requires investigation and sometimes undercover work to get to the bottom of it. Addressing poaching requires significant resources.”