Kai Kin Ng of Richmond, British Columbia, has reportedly been fined $40,000 CAD/$38,962 USD for abalone trafficking.
The Vancouver Sun explains that Ng’s fine was the result of an arrest in December 2010. Marketwire reports that $35,000 CAD/$34,092 USD will be paid to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to fund research into the illegal trafficking and distribution of Northern abalone.
Ng was caught with Northern Abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana), an IUCN Threatened species. Ng used a tactic that is employed all too often in wildlife crime: He mixed his illegal cargo with legal species.
In this instance, the Northern was mixed with Mexican Pink Abalone (Haliotis corrugata), and Green Abalone (Haliotis fulgens). Authorities confiscated 48 boxes and found the endangered Northern Abalone in 14.
Ng pleaded ignorance of the existence of the the endangered mollusk. Ignorance is a common plea in wildlife smuggling and one that is frequently used in abalone poaching. Canadian courts did not agree, as Ng is a chef who should be aware of the differences.
Abalone is considered a delicacy and commands a high premium in the black market. Penalties for poaching frequently do not serve as a deterrent.
This large snail has been over-fished all along the North American Pacific Coast. Slow growth and infrequent reproduction make it difficult for endangered populations to recover. Abalone fisheries were closed in British Columbia in 1990.
The Red Abalone (Haliotis rufescens), is the only species allowed to be caught on the Northern California coast. There are strict limits on the capture and it may not be sold for commercial purposes.
Image by N. Yotarou via Wikimedia Commons