Court hits man with record fine for illegal export of Nunavut narwhal tusks
Aglukkaq commends Environment Canada wildlife officers
Updated Oct. 3
A Canadian man has been slapped with a record fine under a wildlife protection law after he helped export 250 narwhal tusks from Canada into the United States.
Environment Canada says Gregory Logan, of Grande Prairie, Alta., was convicted Oct. 1 on seven counts for offences 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 community sentence, including four months of house arrest. He is also banned for the next ten years from owning any marine mammal parts.
Logan’s conviction is a result of Operation Longtooth, the federal department’s two-year investigation launched in 2009, when wildlife officials received information about the illegal American purchase of narwhal tusks that originated in Canada.
The tusks, most of which come from narwhals hunted in Nunavut, were bought legally from sources in and out of the territory between 2003 and 2009.
With the right permits, narwhal tusks may be bought and sold legally within Canada and exported to some other countries.
One example: a September post on kijiji.ca offers a tusk from Chesterfield Inlet for $3,500.
But the United States prohibits the import of narwhal tusks — unless they’re more than 100 years old, and even then a permit is required.
Court documents say that, with the help of dealers in the U.S., Logan, while visiting a summer home in Maine, smuggled the tusks across the border from St. Stephen, New Brunswick to Maine in a trailer modified with a false bottom.
There they would be shipped via FedEx to American buyers.
Logan is the first in a tusk smuggling network to be convicted; his wife Nina Logan was also charged, although her charges were dropped after accepting a plea bargain. Two American tusk dealers are currently on trial in the U.S.
On Oct. 2, federal environment minister and Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq commended the work of wildlife officers who led Operation Longtooth, saying the conviction sends a very strong message.
“We take these matters very seriously,” she told Nunatsiaq News. “This is the largest penalty ever handed down in Canada.”
Aglukkaq said that will help to protect the narwhal from further exploitation, while also protecting the animal’s role in Inuit culture.
“We are part of a hunting culture and it’s an important part of our diet,” Aglukkaq said. “We captured them legally, we sold them legally, but there are individuals who sold these products illegally.
“Nunavummiut are doing their part.”
Aglukkaq did not say if any further measures are required to protect the species from the illegal tusk trade.
“Anyone who buys a narwhal tusk has to have that paperwork,” Aglukkaq said. “There’s a tagging process in place when we sell domestically.”
This is the second case of narwhal smuggling that Canadian wildlife officials have worked on in 2013.
Earlier this year, officials stopped three Mexican nationals in Winnipeg who were attempting to return home with three narwhal tusks and three polar bear hides, all from Nunavut. All three were fined.
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has proposed a new plan that would help trace tusks, which would require narwhal hunters to attach a tag to tusks so they can be tracked when they are traded in Canada or internationally.