Environmental complaints and convictions up on P.E.I. in 2017

The number of complaints to conservation officers is up across P.E.I., in addition to convictions, according to new numbers released by the province.

Increase attributed to enforcing Highway Traffic Act and new tip line

The province credits a new online tip line for leading to an increase in the number of complaints and convictions by conservation officers. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

The number of complaints received by P.E.I. conservation officers is up, according to new numbers released by the province.

Last year conservation officers received 809 complaints, up from 556 in 2016 — that's an increase of 45 per cent.

"We relate that to some of the efforts we've made in educating the public on the role of the conservation officer in law enforcement in P.E.I.," explained Wade MacKinnon, P.E.I.'s chief conservation officer. 

Some of the complaints included illegal fires, dumping, pollution and buffer zone infractions.

The number of convictions is also up — from 123 in 2016, to 229 in 2017 — a jump of 85 per cent. 

Wade MacKinnon is one of 7 conservation officers responsible for patrolling Island highways and protecting P.E.I.'s wildlife and natural environment. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

The Department of Justice and Public Safety said the changes are thanks in large part to the public's assistance through a new tip line which went live last summer.

They were also able to institute a report-a-poacher program and an online complaint form, MacKinnon said. ​

Public's assistance

P.E.I. has seven conservation officers to cover the entire province, MacKinnon said. 

"We are out and about across the province where we need to be, but without the public's assistance then a lot of times we wouldn't know what's actually going on," MacKinnon said.

Conservation officers recently investigated damage to crops in Stratford by snowmobilers. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Conservation officers have taken on a greater role in public safety, he said, since transferring to Justice and Public Safety, and officers have been more aggressive in enforcing the Highway Traffic Act.

Most investigations into environmental matters by conservation officers are in response to public complaints.