By Heather Ramsay-Was the punishment enough? It was the biggest abalone poaching bust in BC history, but did brothers Stan and Daniel MacNeill, along with Randall Graff, all of Skidegate, receive a big enough sentence for their crime?
At least one islander says no.
When the sentences were handed down on Thursday in Prince Rupert, Stan MacNeill was ordered to pay $20,000, given a 12-month conditional sentence with six months house arrest, and a five year scuba-diving prohibition.
Randall Graff and Daniel MacNeill were both given four month conditional sentences, with three months house arrest, two year dive bans, 80 hours of community service and $10,000 in monetary penalties.
Stan MacNeill has also forfeited his truck, boat and dive equipment valued at $143,000. The other men forfeit $4,000 in equipment.
Judson Brown, who works in natural resource management in Skidegate, said he thought the sentence light, considering it was the first case prosecuted under the Species at Risk Act, a relatively new piece of legislation that is supposed to protect threatened and endangered species.
The men were caught with 11,000 abalone loaded on the back of their truck in February 2006 near Port Edward, the largest seizure ever in BC.
In 2004, a Vancouver Island man was fined $25,000 and received a 10-year diving prohibition. He the subject of a year-long investigation, but when he was caught only 450 animals were seized.
Mr. Brown says there is an adage in his line of work, that judges don’t view crimes against resources in a same light as crimes like bank robbery and assault.
Northern abalone has been banned from all harvesting since 1990 and the molluscs have been listed as threatened since 1999.
An as yet unpublished Fisheries and Oceans Canada report projects that abalone could be extinct in BC waters in 50 years.
Stan McNeill has faced fisheries violations before. In April 2002, he pleaded guilty for harvesting and selling sablefish without a proper license and received a $10,000 fine.
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