Statewide poaching and wildlife trafficking raids include Marblemount restaurant

By Jason Miller
posted on 10.4.12

Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife police officers served 14 warrants statewide Sept. 18, targeting businesses and individuals who allegedly were involved in poaching and illegally selling wild animal parts.

One of those businesses was a Marble-mount restaurant, according to DFW’s Deputy Chief of Enforcement Mike Cenci. Officers confronted the owner, who is suspected of buying illegal wild game and putting it on the menu.

“He was moving illegal fish and game through his establishment—that was the premise for us being there,” said Cenci.

Cenci added the Marblemount restaurant owner had more than one illegal item on the menu. “My understanding is that there was at least one species of fish involved that was not allowed to be sold, that was possessed in his restaurant, along with other food items that were not allowed to be sold. I think that discovery was made and it involved Dolly Varden trout, potentially taken out of the Skagit River.”

State law forbids the sale of wild game meat unless it has been bought from a licensed game farm. Washington prohibits game farms because of concerns with diseases that can be passed to wild game populations outside the farms.

“Other states with legal game farms have had some problems in that regard, and Washington has been unwilling to take that chance,” said Cenci. “If you were to buy red deer or elk from New Zealand, or deer from Colorado that you can prove was received from a lawfully licensed entity in another state or country, you’re good to go. But our native species—meat from big-game animals from wild populations—are not allowed to be sold.”

Even hunters operating within established seasons must be careful not to sell meat from any wild game animal they kill.

A statewide problem
The DFW raids stretched from Tacoma and Skagit County on the western side of the state to Yakima and Spokane counties on the eastern side. An individual described as the ringleader of a poaching effort in Tacoma already is in jail on 13 counts of illegal trafficking of fish, wildlife, and closed-season big game.

“We drop the bad guys when they’re out there in the field, stealing wildlife with the intent of selling it, but we also go into the marketplace and trace backward,” said Cenci. “Whether it’s fish, game, or shellfish—none of the stuff we’re accusing [the Marblemount restaurant owner] of moving had a USDA stamp on it.”

The Marblemount business owner had not been charged with a crime at press time. Concrete Herald does not publish names of businesses or persons accused of a crime until they have been formally charged.

Cenci said charges were pending for unlawful trafficking of fish and wildlife.

Published in Concrete Herald, October 2012

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