A New Brunswick man has been fined a record $385,000 for smuggling narwhal tusks into the United States.
Gregory Logan, of Woodmans Point, was convicted of seven counts of trafficking offences relating to 250 narwhal ivory tusks. He was given an eight-month conditional sentence that includes four months of house arrest.
Logan was sentenced Tuesday. The smuggled tusks were displayed for the media in Dartmouth, N.S., on Wednesday.
'Species of concern'
"We set up an operation called Operation Longtooth," said Glen Ehler, a wildlife enforcement officer for Environment Canada. "It's the largest conviction we've had."
Logan bought tusks from Inuit hunters in the Northwest Territories and sold them to importers and collectors in the U.S.
Using surveillance techniques, Environment Canada wildlife enforcement officers observed Logan placing narwhal tusks in the undercarriage of his vehicle. He had a special compartment under his truck and a hidden compartment on his trailer.
Logan then drove from St. Stephen, N.B., to Calais, Maine, where he deposited the tusks for shipment to a U.S. buyer.
Two narwhal tusks were recovered and seized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Further investigation revealed Logan illegally exported a total of 250 tusks between 2003 and 2009.
Logan was arrested and charged by Environment Canada in 2011.
Jennifer Kennedy, a spokeswoman for federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, said the illegal exporting went on for seven years.
The $385,000 penalty is the largest in Canada for offences under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, she said.
The narwhal is a medium-sized whale with a single long ivory tusk that spirals counter-clockwise from its head, with a length from one to three metres. It is a “species of special concern,” according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
The narwhal is a protected species in the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Only Inuit can hunt narwhal
Only Inuit people can legally harvest narwhal in Canada. It’s used as a source of food and income.
“The harvest and transport of tusks is regulated to ensure that legal trade continues to remain viable and sustainable,” Kennedy said in a media release.
Operation Longtooth began in April 2009, when Environment Canada’s enforcement branch received information from enforcement agencies in the U.S. about the illegal purchase of narwhal tusks.
The operation uncovered a smuggling chain taking the tusks from Canada to buyers in the U.S.
Logan is prohibited from possessing or purchasing marine mammal products for 10 years. He also forfeited a truck and trailer he used during the smuggling.