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2022 – Enforcement of Illegal Hunting Practices
H. 4442: An Act further regulating the enforcement of illegal hunting practices
MSPCA Position: Support Sponsors: Senator Michael Moore, (former) Representative Lori Ehrlich and Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante Status: Passed by House February 9, 2022. Passed by the Senate on July 11, 2022. Signed by the Governor on August 4, 2022, Chapter 145 of the Acts of 2022.
Illegal hunting and fishing threaten the welfare and conservation of native species important to our ecosystems and economy and steal from lawful fishing businesses, recreational sportspersons, and wildlife watchers. This bill (1) modernizes penalties for illegal hunting, some of which are outdated by nearly a century, and (2) enters Massachusetts in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, which already benefits every other state wildlife law enforcement agency. Joining this Compact ends our status as a safe-haven for those whose hunting, trapping, or fishing licenses have been suspended in any of the other 49 member states.
Background: Illegal hunting, trapping, and fishing activity is a serious problem across the country and here in Massachusetts. Massachusetts Environmental Police records indicate that nearly a thousand hunting violations occur in Massachusetts each year. Wildlife violators take animals over the allowable limit, kill protected species, and kill animals out of season, often orphaning dependent young. The New England Wildlife Center in Weymouth has reported that illegal hunting victims, often injured or orphaned, are turning up with ever-greater frequency at wildlife rehabilitation centers.
Particularly, the illegal taking of sea life along our coastlines is rampant, raising issues of sustainability and threatening the livelihood of local fishermen. Illegally selling and transporting prohibited fish can wreak havoc on natural systems. For example, Environmental Police officers have found fish markets in Chinatown selling Grass Carp—a prohibited, highly invasive species that can cause serious damage to freshwater ecosystems.
Modernize penalties to deter wildlife criminals: Current fines amount to little more than a slap on the wrist and are seen as the cost of doing business by these wildlife violators. This legislation brings our penalties in line with other states, elevating fines, jail time, and hunting and fishing license suspensions for certain crimes, including the commercialization of fish and wildlife. It targets the most egregious offenders—those who wantonly and repeatedly violate the law or kill multiple animals at once for thrills.
Protect tourism and local business: Illegal hunting, trapping, and fishing jeopardizes the livelihood of people and businesses that rely on a thriving ecosystem. When wildlife violators illegally fish in our lakes, rivers, and streams, taking fish out of season or over the legal limit, they exploit the Commonwealth’s natural resources and steal revenue from constituents who make a living off the water. These wildlife violators threaten the welfare and conservation of native species important to our ecosystems and economy and steal from lawful fishing businesses, recreational sportsmen and women, and wildlife watchers.
Join the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact: Prior to the passage of this bill, Massachusetts was the only state in the country that was not a member of this nationwide law enforcement network. The second to last state, Hawaii, joined in July 2021. As a member, Massachusetts now benefits from the network that has been helping wildlife agencies increase compliance with wildlife laws for 25 years. Joining the compact prevents wildlife violators who have lost their hunting, trapping, or fishing privileges in member states from coming to Massachusetts to circumvent their license revocations. It also gives our wildlife agency access to a database of wildlife violators, allowing them to choose to enforce a reciprocal license suspension or revocation provided Massachusetts has a similar law and penalty (i.e., if the wildlife violation they were convicted of warranted a license revocation in their home state and it was also a license-revocable offense in Massachusetts).