POLITICS

Man gets record fine for smuggling threatened narwhal tusks into United States

10/02/2013 05:02 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
ST. STEPHEN, N.B. - A New Brunswick man has been given a record fine for illegally smuggling about 250 narwhal tusks into the United States after American wildlife officials tipped off their Canadian counterparts to the seven-year operation.

Glen Ehler, director of wildlife enforcement for Environment Canada, said Wednesday that Gregory Logan of Woodmans Point was convicted under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act.

Logan was fined $385,000 and given an eight-month conditional sentence to be served in the community, including four months of house arrest, during his appearance in provincial court on Tuesday in St. Stephen.

Ehler, who ran intelligence on the 2 1/2 year investigation code-named Operation Longtooth, said the penalties for trade in the threatened species serve as a deterrent for potential smugglers in the lucrative trade.

"We're very pleased with this fine — it's the largest fine to date for (such) an offence," he said in Halifax. "It's going to act as a strong deterrent."

Environment Canada displayed the truck Logan used to smuggle the contraband, along with two long, spiralled ivory narwhal tusks seized in the only other case like it in Canada.

Ehler said the surveillance of Logan began after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave Environment Canada a tip in 2009. Officials watched him at his residences in New Brunswick and Alberta, seeing him at one point affix two long narwhal tusks to the bottom of his truck.

Ehler said Logan then crossed into the U.S., with the pricey tusks hidden on the underside of his vehicle.

After searching one home, investigators learned that Logan was also using a trailer to smuggle tusks across the border by tying them onto the bottom and concealing them in a hidden compartment, he said.

They also discovered that the activity dated back to 2003, and that he was selling them to eight people in areas ranging from Maine to Hawaii.

In total, Environment Canada says Logan smuggled 250 tusks into the U.S. and made a profit of $700,000, the bulk of which will be turned over to the receiver general.

Ehler said Logan bought the tusks from northern Canada and violated the law by smuggling the items into a country that prohibits the importation of marine mammals. He sold them in contravention of the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species.

Ehler said the investigation in the U.S. continues, though one person in Massachusetts has been convicted of illegally importing narwhal tusks linked to the Logan case.

Logan is also prohibited from possessing or purchasing marine mammal products for 10 years, and he must forfeit items used to smuggle the tusks, which includes a truck and trailer seized during Environment Canada's investigation.

Environment Canada says only Inuit may harvest narwhal in Canada because it is a source of food and income in northern communities.

Note to readers: This is corrected story. A previous version said the tusks were brought to Canada from the United States.