October 20, 2017
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Portland firm sentenced for illegal urchin imports

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff
Updated:
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
“Sea urchins sit crammed into a plastic crate on the deck of a fisherman’s boat off the town of St. George in this September 2016 photo. On Wednesday a federal judge fined a Portland seafood distribution company more than half a million dollars for illegally importing urchins from Canada.”

A Portland-based seafood firm, ISF Trading Co., has been ordered by a federal judge to pay a $552,500 fine and forfeit $297,500 for selling urchins it imported from Canada by illegal means.

U.S. District Court Judge John A. Woodcock issued the sentence Wednesday. It includes one year of probation for violating the Lacey Act, a federal law that prohibits trade in wildlife that has been illegally taken, held, transported or sold.

ISF pleaded guilty last August to importing more than 48,000 pounds of sea urchins between Dec. 31, 2010, and Feb. 1, 2011. The processed roe from those animals was worth an estimated $172,800, according to prosecutors.

ISF imported the urchins through Calais from TGK Fisheries of Grand Manan, a company that wasn’t authorized under Canadian law to export urchins to the U.S. ISF brought them across the Calais Port of Entry under the false label of another Canadian supplier, Matthews Seafood of New Brunswick, Canada. At times, Matthews was authorized to export them.

The scheme was discovered in February 2011, when ISF attempted to import 8,000 pounds of sea urchins, using an invoice in the name of Matthews, according to previous reports. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer became suspicious when he noticed that the totes containing the sea urchins did not have the labels required by law.

“Illegal imports of fish or fish products harm honest fisherman, undercut importers and exporters who follow the law, and distort fair trade,” James Landon, director of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement said in a news release announcing the sentence.

ISF faced a maximum of five years of probation and up to $1.25 million in fines and forfeitures for the violations.

BDN writer Judy Harrison contributed to this report.

Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.

 


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