A Richmond food wholesaler has been ordered to pay a $77,500 fine after pleading guilty to three counts of illegal possession of endangered northern abalone, under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), plus one violation of the Fisheries Act.
According to documents from Richmond Provincial Court, NG Fung Enterprises, operated by a Chi Fai “Patrick” Kwok, was visited by fishery officers on three separate occasion between December 2013 and June 2014.
A significant quantity of abalone was discovered in the retail store, warehouse, and in a concealed storeroom. Subsequent DNA testing by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Molecular Genetics Lab, at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, confirmed the presence of endangered Northern abalone.
Due to serious conservation concerns documented by scientists and fishery managers, all abalone fisheries were closed in B.C. in 1990.
In 2003, northern abalone were listed and protected. The court document said that, despite continued efforts to rebuild abalone populations and prosecute individuals involved in illegal harvest and trade, northern abalone show little sign of recovery.
The greatest threat to the survival of this species continues to be illegal harvest, which is, in turn, driven by the illegal trade.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) re-assessed the northern abalone status in 2009, designating the species as endangered because there had been little or no recovery of the wild abalone population, particularly the larger reproductive animals.