Calgary

Alberta anglers frown on fish poachers

A group of Alberta anglers travelled to a Pincher Creek courtroom on Tuesday to witness six Lethbridge men getting charged with illegally harvesting 29 fish from the Oldman River.

Fishermen attend court hearing to quietly protest illegal harvesting of protected fish

On June 24 Alberta wildlife officers seized 29 protected trout species from anglers fishing in a catch-and-release area of the Oldman River. (Fish and Wildlife Enforcement/Facebook)

A group of Alberta anglers traveled to a Pincher Creek courtoom this week to witness six men getting charged with illegally harvesting 29 fish from the Oldman River.

"To see this huge event of poaching take place, it was very personal for a lot of us," said concerned Calgary angler Jordan Pinkster.

He says he and five other Southern Alberta anglers were in court to observe the proceedings and "express solidarity" for the protected area of the river where the fish were poached.

"For conservation purposes, the Oldman River where the men caught the illegal fish is open to catch and release only. The illegal harvest of this number of vulnerable trout has a lasting impact on the population of fish," Alberta Fish and Wildlife said in a statement on their Facebook page.

Wildlife officers responded to a tip called into their Report-A-Poacher line on June 24 and discovered six Lethbridge men in possession of 25 cutthroat trout and four bull trout — both of which are at-risk, provincially protected species.

"They cleaned out a pretty big section of the river," said Pinkster.

Calgary angler Jordan Pinkster traveled to a Pincher Creek courtroom this week to observe a hearing involving what he calls an "extreme case" of fish poaching in the Oldman River. (Jordan Pinkster)

Dhan Kumar Gurung, Harka Gurung, Sunny Gurung, Sha Bahadur Subba, Kanchan Subba and Suk Bahadur Subba were tried as a group on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to the charges.

Each were fined $1,000 and had their fishing licences suspended until 2016, at which point the men can apply again for new ones.

We talk to a local angler about the problem of fish poaching in the Oldman River, and whether authorities are doing enough to combat the problem. 8:00

Their defence lawyer, Marshall Gourlay, told the Pincher Creek Voice the men came to Canada from Bhutan as refugees and were not doing it for profit.

"They didn't seem like bad guys to me," said Pinkster.

"There was a quite personal story of where these guys came from and how they came to be in Canada. So it really sheds light on the human element of why they did what they did and a lack of understanding that exists."

In the end, Pinkster says "ignorance isn't an excuse for this" because the river is clearly marked with signs stating that anglers can't keep the trout they catch.

"It's always the anglers' responsibility to know the rules in every single circumstance. If you're going to put a line in the water, you better know what the rules."

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