The three men accused of illegally harvesting 11,000 abalone from northern waters were in court in Prince Rupert on July 24.
Skidegate’s Daniel McNeill and Randall Graff, along with Prince Rupert’s Michael (Stanley) McNeill face fines of up to $500,000 and five years in prison if convicted.
Fisheries officers say it was the largest seizure of Northern abalone in BC history. The three were arrested after Fisheries officers conducted an elaborate stake-out operation last February.
Camouflaged officers spent several nights watching and waiting for the vessel to come ashore near Port Edwards. The officers waited until the catch was unloaded onto a waiting truck before making their move.
They found more than 1,100 kilograms of abalone still in its shell, most of the animals alive.
Abalone has been identified as a species at risk and there has been no legal fishery since 1990. Once plentiful on the coast, the stocks have not recovered in the intervening 16 years.
Department of Fisheries and Oceans Species at Risk co-ordinator Brian Jubinville said “scientists believe the single greatest threat to the species is poaching.”
The men have a month to prepare their defence. Their next appearance is on August 28 in Prince Rupert.
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