Wednesday, October 15, 2014

NOAA, American Seafoods Settle on Flow Scale Cases

Federal fisheries officials have settled with American Seafoods Co. over three civil enforcement cases involving flow scales on board the company’s fishing vessels, with ASC agreeing to pay a combined civil penalty of $1.75 million.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in an announcement in mid-October that the cases relate to events that occurred during 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012 in the Alaska pollock fishery.

NOAA charged that personnel aboard the ASC’s catcher-processor vessels American Dynasty, Ocean Rover and Northern Eagle violated the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the American Fisheries Act by causing the flow scales to weigh inaccurately.

American Seafoods Co. harvests, processes, distributes and markets a diverse seafood product line from fisheries in waters off of the coasts of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. The company has regional sales offices in Asia and Europe.

Flow scales are used to ensure accurate catch accounting on catcher processors, and the data they collect are essential to effective management of the Alaska pollock fishery, one of the largest, most valuable fisheries in the world. Pollock processed on these vessels is used for a variety of products, including fish fillets, imitation crab, roe, fish oil and fishmeal.

Inge Andreassen, president of American Seafoods, said the company is satisfied with the outcome of these cases. “Our cooperative dialogue with NOAA has helped us improve our internal procedures and, we believe, will improve the agency’s oversight of flow scale matters throughout the fleet.

The violations were investigated by NOAA”s Office of Law Enforcement and prosecuted by the enforcement section of NOAA’s Office of General Counsel. The cases resulted from reports from observers assigned to the American Seafoods Co. vessels who noticed discrepancies between weights recorded by the flow scale and their own motion-compensated scales. Observers are responsible for monitoring and documenting the fishing activities on board the vessels, and their reports are used for scientific, management and compliance purposes in the Alaska pollock fishery.

Separate from these enforcement cases, the National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed a change to its flow scale regulations that would tighten daily scale testing standards, require that test results be electronically reported to NMFS, improve the agency’s ability to detect accidental or intentional introduction of scale bias and require flow scale video monitoring aboard all catcher processors using at-sea scales.

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