On Wednesday, a British Columbia man was fined $6,000 by an Alberta judge for unlawfully catching eight cutthroat trout in Banff National Park almost four years ago as a part of a survival challenge he documented on YouTube.
In July 2019, Greg Ovens, an outdoor survivalist from Canal Flats, B.C., and Zachary Fowler, an American citizen, recorded a segment of the “30 Day Survival Challenge in the Canadian Rockies” YouTube video series in the national park.
In February 2022, Parks Canada wardens pressed charges against two individuals, who had previously met on the History Channel TV show Alone. Although warrants are still active for Fowler, Ovens has chosen to plead guilty to one count of violating the National Parks Act related to illegal fishing.
Justice Eric Tolppanen of the Alberta Court of Justice differed from the Crown’s stance that the accused intended to reap financial gains from his conduct. While acknowledging Ovens’ timely admission of guilt and efforts to eliminate the videos, the judge stressed the gravity of the situation.
“A total of eight of the protected species of fish were taken from the lake. It’s aggravating that natural bait was used. This type of bait is prohibited as it risks the introduction to lakes of invasive species, including the microscopic parasite that causes whirling disease,” Tolppanen said Wednesday.
“I do find, however, his conduct to have been reckless. As part of the Survival Challenge, he clearly planned to live for a significant period of time in an area familiar to him within the boundaries of Banff National Park.”
The Crown suggested imposing a penalty of $8,000, equivalent to $1,000 per fish, but Tolpannen opted for an alternative punishment for Ovens. As per Tolpannen’s decision, Ovens must publish his plea and sentence details on the YouTube channel where the videos were uploaded and send a letter to YouTube’s parent company. While Ovens has been given six months to pay the fine, he must inform the Crown of his sentence posting on YouTube and send the crown the letter to Google LLC for approval within two weeks.