Richard Froese
South Peace News

Five charges have been dropped against a man from the High Prairie area charged in connection with a major illegal fish-poaching operation.

Charges for Louis Robert Bellrose were withdrawn in High Prairie provincial court May 17.

Crown prosecutor Kelly Payne requested the judge withdraw two counts of unauthorized buying and selling fish and one count of unauthorized buying of fish laid by Alberta Fish and Wildlife in Edmonton.

The Crown also withdrew two High Prairie charges of failing to comply with terms of a fishing licence and failing to carry a fishing licence while fishing.

Judge R.B. Marceau accepted the Crown’s request.

“Charges for Mr. Bellrose are withdrawn,” Marceau says.

Bellrose was not present in court.

He pleaded not guilty to those five charges in provincial court Sept. 28 when his trial was scheduled for June 8.

Crown prosecutor Serge Eta-Ndu said he expected the trial to take a full day when the matter was in court Sept. 28.

Bellrose faced fines of up to $20,000, Eta-Ndu said.

Disclosure on the charges was about 1,000 pages, he said.

Bellrose faces other charges that are still in the court system.

Alberta Fish and Wildlife announced the charges Jan. 23, 2020 after concluding a two-year undercover investigation focused on trafficking fish in northern and central Alberta.

Bellrose is among 33 people from the High Prairie, Faust, Slave Lake areas and other Alberta communities facing at total of 80 charges under the General Fisheries (Alberta) Regulations.

The other people charged are from Morinville, Edmonton, Vegreville, Bashaw, Halkirk and Castor.

It is alleged the fish netted were primarily in Lesser Slave Lake east of High Prairie and Winagami Lake northwest of High Prairie under the guise of Metis and Treaty domestic fishing rights.

Charges include the unlawful sale, purchase and possession of fish, including lake whitefish and walleye.

During the course of the investigation, it was estimated that about 12,000 pounds of fish were illegally killed and subsequently trafficked from the two lakes.

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