A Seattle-based seafood company accused of stealing groundfish from the Bering Sea has agreed to pay up.
American Seafoods will pay $1.75 million to settle violations on three of its catcher-processors. The American Dynasty, the Ocean Rover, and the Northern Eagle were all accused of tampering with their scales for weighing fish at sea over a five-year period.
Crew members allegedly fixed the scales so they would weigh light — allowing them to take in up to 27 percent more fish than they were reporting. That’s a violation of the Magnuson Stevens Act and the American Fisheries Act.
American Seafoods tried to fight back against some of the charges by bringing the case to an administrative judge. Their settlement is about a million dollars less than what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration originally wanted to charge.
Besides the fine, the case also prompted a new set of rules for vessels that weigh their catch at sea.
Starting in January, factory trawlers will have to use scales that can track calibration data — and they’ll need to file digital weight reports every day. On top of that, the entire weigh-in area must be monitored on video.
NOAA spokesperson Julie Speegle says that should ”reduce the possibility of scale tampering” and make it easier for regulators to pick out fraud down the road.