BRANDON — A man who illegally sold pickerel through a Facebook buy and sell page was handed a hefty fine on Monday.
Tyson Buskell pleaded guilty in Brandon provincial court to selling fish without a licence, contrary to the Manitoba Fisheries Act.
In September 2017, Manitoba Conservation received information that Buskell was offering pickerel for sale on two Brandon Facebook buy and sell sites for $15 a pound, Crown attorney Grant Hughes told the court.
Buskell is not a licensed commercial fisher, Hughes said, nor does he have a fish dealer licence.
In the comments of one of Buskell’s postings, Hughes said a Facebook user questioned what authority he had to sell the fish, to which he responded that he had a harvester card.
People on the site further informed Buskell that he needed a licence to sell fish, and that a harvester card did not give the cardholder the authority to sell fish.
Manitoba Conservation launched an intelligence probe to review this information, Hughes said, and an undercover conservation officer agreed to purchase the quantity of fish.
Buskell advised the officer that he sold fish for $15 a pound and that he usually sold in quantities of five, 10, 15, 20 and 100 pounds, Hughes said.
Buskell also created a group chat in Facebook Messenger with 13 interested fish buyers — including the undercover officer — where he’d post when he had fish available and when it was ready for pickup.
The officer purchased pickerel fillets in different quantities from Buskell three times between October 2017 and October 2018, Hughes said.
During one pickup, Buskell told the officer he had received 150 pounds of fish that day and had previously sold another 150 pounds, Hughes said.
Buskell got the fish from a friend who was a commercial fishermen on Lake Winnipeg, he told the officer, adding the fish was all legitimate and that people keep asking for it.
On another pickup, Buskell told the officer he was getting 200 pounds of fish on his next shipment so he was buying a deep freeze to store it, Hughes said.
Conservation officers approached Buskell on Oct. 10, 2018 and took a statement, during which he stated he only sold fish to a couple of close friends for approximately $11 a pound.
Officers interviewed some of the other buyers in the group chat Buskell created, Hughes said, who all said they were not close friends of Buskell’s but rather had met through his advertisement selling the fish.
They also confirmed they paid $15 a pound for the pickerel they purchased, Hughes said.
"Mr. Buskell has no legal authority to sell fish," Hughes said. "This can be a serious type of incident given that we don’t know the quality of fish by selling without a licence, and it also takes away from the livelihood of individuals who are legally entitled to sell."
Buskell, who represented himself in court, said it was an oversight on his part.
"This is my first offence, it was a matter of me not really knowing the laws, to be honest," Buskell said. "If I would have known, I wouldn’t have put it on Facebook."
Judge John Combs handed Buskell a $1,000 fine.
"There’s a reason why this kind of entrepreneurship is regulated," Combs said. "It sounds like … a lot of fish was going through your household during this particular time."
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