A customs officer holds the head of a polar bear rug
Credits: REUTERS/THOMAS PETER
WINNIPEG - A Winnipeg judge handed out $80,000 in fines Friday to a group of high-flying Mexican trophy hunters snared at the airport without the permits required to export several polar bears they bagged on a hunting trip in Canada's north.
Hector Armando Martinez, 67, Alejandro Martinez, 35, and Gerardo Rodriguez, 41, faced infractions under federal environmental protection and international trade laws after the private jet belonging to Hector Armando Martinez was searched at the Winnipeg airport March 31.
A fourth man, Hector Martinez Martinez, 38, was charged under the Fisheries Act in connection to two narwhal tusks which were seized.
The men paid $35,000 each for a legal hunting trip to far-flung parts of Nunavut which began in mid-March, court heard. However, wildlife officials were tipped off they might be trying to return to Mexico without required export permits for game they killed.
A search of the hunters' plane by Canada Border Services Agency officials found this was the case, Judge Kelly Moar was told.
"The accused ... advised the officers they had bagged three polar bears," the Crown told court.
They had acquired inter-provincial export permits, but not ones allowing them to take their quarry across international boundaries, which take weeks to obtain.
As well, the Crown said, the Alberta taxidermist they signalled the game was to be sent to existed, but the town in which the company operates didn't.
"The hunters changed their minds due to the cost of taxidermy in Canada versus the cost in Mexico," Moar heard.
Mexican law prohibits the importation of marine mammals and the animals would have likely been seized after the Canadian taxidermist shipped them off, the Crown said.
"This is the reason why the (permit) was not obtained."
Without them, the prosecution stressed, wildlife officials have no manner to track and regulate at-risk or endangered species.
"Without those regulations, we have illegal smuggling and we will lose these animals forever," the Crown said.
Hector Armando Martinez is a wealthy Mexican property developer, rancher and conservation enthusiast who in 1994 was fined $10,000 in the U.S. for attempting to illegally export live animals including tigers, an African lion, bears, jaguars and a leper into his homeland by truck, Moar heard.
The men apologized to the court.
The fines Moar imposed will be paid into Environment Canada's Environmental Damages Fund. They must also report in advance all details of any hunting trip in Canada they might take in the next five years.