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Three Charged with Illegally Transporting Crab from Alaska to Washington

Tanner_Crab-300x200An indictment from a federal grand jury in Alaska has been issued, accusing the owner and captains of two crab catcher vessels of unlawfully transporting crab from Alaska, a violation of the Lacey Act.

According to legal documents, Corey Potter is identified as the owner of two fishing vessels. Justin Welch and Kyle Potter serve as the captains. Between February and March of 2024, these vessels amassed a haul exceeding 7,000 pounds of Tanner and golden king crab in Southeast Alaska. Corey Potter allegedly instructed Kyle Potter and Justin Welch to transport the crab to Seattle, Washington, in an effort to fetch a higher price than that which could be obtained in Alaska. Neither captain docked the harvested crab at an Alaskan port, failing to document the harvest on a fish ticket, as mandated by state law.

Reportedly, the crab was transported through Canadian and Washington waters. Upon reaching Washington, a significant portion of the king crab was discovered to be dead or unsuitable for sale. Corey Potter purportedly admitted that some of the crab on board was afflicted with Bitter Crab Syndrome (BCS), a fatal parasitic disease affecting crustaceans. An additional 4,000 pounds of Tanner crab was allegedly disposed of due to the risk of BCS contamination. Legal documents contend that had the crab been correctly landed in Alaska, the harvest would have been inspected, and infected crab would have been identified and discarded before departing from Alaska.

What is the Lacey Act?

The Lacey Act is a piece of legislation primarily focused on the conservation and protection of wildlife in the United States. It was enacted in 1900 and has been amended several times since then. The Act prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported, or sold.

The Charges

Corey Potter faces two charges of unlawfully transporting fish or wildlife, violating 16 U.S.C. 3372(a)(2)(A) and 3373(d)(1)(B), while Justin Welch and Kyle Potter each face one charge for the same offense. Their initial court appearance is scheduled for May 2nd, 2024, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew M. Scoble of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison and fined $20,000 for each count. The sentencing, if convicted, will be determined by a federal district court judge, who will consider various factors including the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney S. Lane Tucker of the District of Alaska and Assistant Director Benjamin Cheeseman from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement.

It’s important to note that an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. The investigation into the case is being conducted by NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, while assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Brickey is handling the prosecution.

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