United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington
DOJ And Seafood Importer Reach Settlement Over 112 Tons Of Illegally Imported Russian King Crab
Crab Seized Last Year at Port of Seattle Following Federal Investigation
The U.S. Department of Justice and Harbor Seafood, Inc. have entered into a consent judgment in a civil forfeiture action involving the seizure of some 112 tons of Russian King Crab that the U.S. government alleges was illegally imported. The crab was sold in July 2011 for approximately $2.5 million. Under the terms of the consent judgment, the U.S. government will forfeit and retain approximately $2.1 million of the proceeds and Harbor Seafood, Inc., a New York corporation, will receive $300,000 of the proceeds. In addition, the consent judgment will require Harbor Seafood, Inc. to undertake a compliance review and provide remedial training to its employees concerning the laws that govern the importation of seafood products.
“International trade involving illegal seafood products is a widespread problem that threatens the integrity of our food supply and undermines efforts to protect valuable natural resources,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “The financial loss to the importer in this case should put all seafood importers on notice that they need to ensure that the products they import are legally harvested and imported.”
According to the consent judgment filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the crab was seized after Harbor Seafood, Inc. attempted to import it through the Port of Seattle in eight shipments during December 2010 and January 2011. The government alleges that Harbor Seafood, Inc. imported the crab illegally because the crab was harvested from Russian waters in violation of Russian quotas, was not marked in accordance with regulations implemented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pursuant to the Lacey Act, and was not accompanied with information required by the reporting regulations implemented by the Food and Drug Administration pursuant to the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. The importation of seafood products that are harvested in violation of foreign law is illegal under the Lacey Act.
Under today’s settlement, Harbor Seafood, Inc. does not admit wrongdoing in the case, but has agreed to undertake a compliance review and provide remedial training to its employees. Harbor Seafood, Inc. handles 40-50 million pounds of seafood annually and is reportedly the 20th largest seafood company in the U.S.
“Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a global challenge, and this case is an example of international cooperation producing tangible results,” said Vicki Nomura, special agent in charge of NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement's Northwest Division. “This kind of illegal activity threatens the long-term sustainability of the Russian crab population and undermines conservation efforts.”
The case was investigated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement, with assistance from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Assistant United States Attorneys Francis Franze-Nakamura and Richard E. Cohen handled the case.