Federal authorities are pursuing a nearly $4.5 million civil penalty against Peter Pan Seafoods Inc., a Seattle-based subsidiary of Japanese seafood giant Maruha Nichiro.
Peter Pan is accused of processing more Bering Sea king and snow crab than allowed under the American Fisheries Act of 1998.
From January 2004 to March 2005, Peter Pan and the processing ship Stellar Sea processed almost 4.2 million pounds of crab in excess of Peter Pan's limit or cap, says a notice of violation the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued in June.
Deckboss obtained a copy of the notice through a Freedom of Information Act request.
NOAA levied a penalty of $4,457,048, but the fine may be appealed or negotiated.
Garland Walker, a NOAA attorney in Juneau, says the case remains unresolved.
The key basis for the penalty is NOAA's determination that Peter Pan and another accused company, Seven Seas Fishing Co., were so closely aligned in their business relationship that they count as one company for purposes of the crab cap.
A Seven Seas subsidiary, Stellar Seafoods Inc., chartered the 314-foot processing ship Stellar Sea, the federal notice says.
This isn't the first time we've seen a multimillion-dollar fine assessed against a processing company for an alleged overage on its crab cap.
In November 2004, NOAA hit Icicle Seafoods Inc. and two associated companies, including Adak Fisheries, with a $3.4 million penalty.
In the Icicle case, NOAA issued a press release announcing the penalty. No press release was issued in the Peter Pan case.
If the Icicle case is any indication — it's still under appeal after five years — we probably need not look for a speedy resolution of the Peter Pan matter.
For more news of recent fisheries enforcement actions, visit our companion blog.