Bass tournament nightmare leads to hefty fines

by Steve Galea | January 8, 2021

A sanctioned bass tournament held on July 13 and 14, 2020 in Gananoque resulted in heavy fines and a recreational fishing licence suspension for the tournament organizer – and nearly 200 dead bass.

MNRF alerted

On July 15, 2019, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) Conservation Officers responded to tips that claimed dozens of fish were killed over the course of the tournament.

MNRF Conservation Officer Owen Fraser of the MNRF Kemptville Enforcement Unit investigated the claims.

His supervisor, Area Enforcement Manager Staff Sergeant Greg Borne said, “The tips came from participants and other members of the fishing community that were present at the weigh-ins. The investigating officer spoke with more than a dozen witnesses who came forward.”

Organizer held accountable

The investigation discovered 195 dead bass, including 188 in plastic bags found in the garbage.

The tournament was part of the B1 Open Series of the Professional Sport Fishing Organization. Forty-six teams participated. Organizer Ben Woo of Tracyville, New Brunswick held a licence with 15 conditions. He was charged with violating five conditions on the first day of the tournament and the same five conditions on the second day and one count of making a false statement on a document.

Woo pled guilty to one count which was “fail to notify of mortality greater than 5%.”

Tourney organizers need to be prepared

Woo’s licence allowed fishing tournament participants to transport live fish from Ontario waters to be weighed and measured, and then to transport the live fish back to the waters they were taken from. Some of the standard conditions of the licence require oxygen levels and temperatures that keep fish alive and healthy, immediate mandatory reporting to MNRF if more than 5% of the fish die, and that any dead fish be kept on ice, so they don’t spoil.

On November 10, 2020, via conference call, Justice of the Peace Stéphanie Goffin-Boyd convicted Woo of one count of failing to abide by the terms and conditions of a licence.

He was fined $9,000 and had his recreational fishing licence suspended for five years.

Borne said, “The conditions on the Licence to Transport Live Fish Taken from Ontario Waters have been created by MNRF after years of research into the best possible outcomes for fish taken during fishing tournaments. It is important for tournament organizers to be prepared and to follow the conditions in order to prevent this degree of fish mortality. MNRF Conservation Officers and other compliance staff do attend tournament weigh-ins to ensure that the conditions are being followed.”

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  1. Phil Beacock wrote: I agree with the law! Fines and suspension works wonders! Do you think though we could have fines Ike this for DUI’s alcohol and drug offences well driving! $9000 fine and a 5 year driving suspension would work wonders!! Hats off to the CO’s and have a safe day!