Wildlife officials disband international smuggling ring involving marine endangered species
HALIFAX, NS-Two Florida residents, Ramon Placeres and Janitse Martinez, were convicted and fined $20,000 (U.S.) each in Halifax provincial court for their roles in a major smuggling ring involving Queen Conch, an internationally protected marine endangered species. Both were fined $10,000 (U.S.) for illegally importing Queen Conch meat into Canada, plus another $10,000 (U.S.) for illegally exporting Queen Conch meat from Canada. The convictions are the culmination of an 18-month investigation by federal wildlife officers in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, as well as American officers from Florida. Officials estimate that between 2004 and 2006, the smuggling operation illegally imported and exported nearly 120,000 kilograms (the equivalent of nearly seven fully loaded semi trailers) of Queen Conch meat in and out of Canada and the U.S. from several Caribbean and South American countries. The investigation led to the seizure of meat derived from between 798,000 and 1.05 million individual conchs. Placeres and Martinez were charged by Environment Canada wildlife enforcement officers under the wild animal and plant protection and regulation of the International and Interprovincial Trade Act. In Canada, this legislation implements the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, under which Queen Conch is a protected species. Court proceedings are also under way in BC against a Vancouver company, Pacific Marine Union Corporation, and its CEO, Zamorro Gabriel Shone, regarding their alleged role in the smuggling ring.