CORAL GABLES SEAFOOD FIRM SENTENCED FOR ILLEGAL IMPORTATION OF CHILEAN SEA BASS
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Hal Robbins, Special Agent in Charge, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office of Law Enforcement, announced that the Coral Gables-based seafood company Pescanova Inc., d/b/a Pescanova USA (â€œPescanovaâ€), was sentenced today in federal District Court in Miami on charges related to the attempted import into the United States of approximately 96,984 Kilograms of frozen toothfish (Dissostichus spp.) from Argentina, with a declared imported value of approximately $ 1.2 million, in violation of the Antarctic Marine Living Resources Convention Act ("Antarctic Act"), 16 U.S.C. Â§ 2431, et sec., and the Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3372(a)(2)(A) and 3373(d)(1)(A).
According to the statement in court and case-related records, in December 2009 Pescanova was the importer of record of four cargo containers of Patagonian toothfish, known commonly in the market-place as Chilean Sea Bass, which were landed at Port Everglades, Florida. The fish were shipped by a company in Argentina related to Pescanova through its parent, Argenova, S.A., an international fisheries conglomerate based in Spain. Pescanova intended to market the product in the United States.
United States District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro, who accepted a guilty plea in the case in August 2010, also imposed the sentence. The Court specifically took into account the fact that the illegal seafood product had already been forfeited to the United States and sold for $1.7 million. Based on representations regarding the implementation of an extensive compliance plan, the Court imposed an additional criminal fine of $10,000.
Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) is a long-lived deep sea species of fish found along shelves and ledges adjacent to islands and landmasses in the Southern Ocean between South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctic waters. Along with its cousin, the Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni), these species are internationally regarded as amongst the most over-fished and illegally harvested species due to the high market demand for the fish, and the resultant high dockside prices. This conduct is defined by the Food and Agricultural organization of the United Nations as â€œIUU:â€ that is, Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing.
The United States is a Party to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (â€œConventionâ€), which seeks to conserve Antarctic marine living resources, including toothfish. The Convention also established a Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (â€œCCAMLRâ€), whose functions include formulation and adoption of Conservation Measures necessary for the fulfilment of the objectives of the Convention. These Measures are generally binding on all Members of CCAMLR.
In 2003, CCAMLR adopted Conservation Measure 10-05 (the Measureâ€), which implements a catch documentation system for toothfish. The purpose of the documentation system is to track toothfish from harvest to country of final destination so that CCAMLR members can determine if the fish was caught in a manner consistent with CCAMLR conservation measures. The United States implements the Convention, and the binding Conservation Measures through the Antarctic Act.
According to the charges in this case, and admissions in Court, Pescanova violated regulations issued under the Antarctic Act by failing to submit a preapproval application to the NOAA National Seafood Inspection Lab for the four cargo containers in the shipment at least 15 working days before the anticipated date importations required; failed to obtain preapproval prior to importation; and submitted belated applications, that failed to contain complete and accurate information in that they failed to identify the quantity of toothfish to be imported, did not provide appropriate Flag state confirmation numbers for each container, and failed to associate each container with a valid DCD, all in violation of the Antarctic Act regulations in 50 C.F.R. Â§300.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement which brought the investigation to a successful conclusion. The case was being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.