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Illegal fish harvesting in U.S. waters of Lake Erie

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
 Great Lakes-Big Rivers Region

           NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
October 19, 1998

Special Agent Daniel LeClair, 313-971-9755
Scott Flaherty, 612-713-5309


A Canadian commercial fisherman from Port Stanley,
Ontario, was charged today in U.S. Federal Court in
Cleveland, Ohio, with violating a federal wildlife
protection law after illegally harvesting fish from U.S.
waters of Lake Erie.  Larry R. Jackson, 60, and L.R.
Jackson Fisheries, Ltd., are charged with one felony and
one misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act
Amendments, a federal law that prohibits interstate
commerce in wildlife protected under state or federal
laws.  If convicted, Jackson and his company face up to
one year imprisonment and $500,000 in fines.

Emily M. Sweeney, United States Attorney for the
Northern District of Ohio, announced the charges against
Jackson, which is the result of an unprecedented
international investigative effort by the U.S. Coast Guard,
the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Ohio Division
of Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the
federal agency responsible for enforcing federal wildlife

The charges state that in November 1997, Jackson was
observed illegally harvesting fish from U.S. waters of
Lake Erie in violation of Ohio state law.  A U.S. Coast
Guard patrol aircraft observed Jackson's 60-foot fishing
vessel, L.R. Jackson, operating within U.S. waters of
Lake Erie.  The Coast Guard crew also videotaped
Jackson's illegal harvesting of fish by gill net from the

U.S. laws strictly regulate fish harvests and commercial
fishing on U.S. waters of the Great Lakes.  Canadian law,
however, encourages commercial fishing in Canadian
waters, including the use of gill nets.  Gills nets are
forbidden in the U.S. waters of Lake Erie.  Lake Erie is
home to the largest Canadian commercial fishing fleet on
the Great Lakes.  Because of their large numbers, and the
competition for fish in Canadian waters, some fisherman
are tempted to venture illegally in to U.S. waters in search
of a better catch.

+The Coast Guard and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
have been working together for the past 10 years in an
effort to increase patrols of the Great Lakes fisheries,' said
Special Agent Daniel LeClair of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service.  According to LeClair, who is leading
the investigation, the Jackson case is not the first incident
of illegal fishing by Canadians on Lake Erie.

+With the full cooperation and assistance of the U.S.
Coast Guard, we've cited other Canadian fishermen for
illegal harvest of fish on the Lake in the past, but the
cases were referred through the civil process,' said
LeClair.  +The Canadians have known for some time that
we were going to get tougher on violators.'

No trial date has yet been set, according to Sweeney.

Patrolling of America's fisheries is a long-standing
mission for the Coast Guard.  Until recently, patrols have
been primarily conducted on U.S. coastal waters.
Protection of Great Lakes' fisheries is a burgeoning
mission for the Coast Guard, according to Coast Guard
Spokesman, Lt. Jerry Popiel.

The Lacey Act is a federal law that prohibits the receipt,
possession, transportation and sale of any fish and
wildlife which has been unlawfully taken or obtained in
violation of international, federal or state laws.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal
agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and
enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the
continuing benefit of the American people.  The Service
manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System comprising more than 500 national wildlife
refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special
management areas.  It also operates 66 national fish
hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations.

The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the
Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird
populations, restores nationally significant fisheries,
conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands,
and helps foreign governments with their conservation
efforts.  It also oversees the Federal Aid program that
distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes
on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife
agencies. For more information about the service, please
visit our web site at: http://www.fws.gov/r3pao/.