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American Seafoods Company Issued NOVAs for Alleged Scale Tampering

On May 8, NOAA issued American Seafoods Company, LLC, two separate Notices of Violation and Assessment (NOVA) for allegedly tampering with weighing equipment, namely flow scales, and then logging the subsequent false results on board catcher/processors F/V OCEAN ROVER and F/V NORTHERN EAGLE. (Ocean Rover, LLC, and Northern Eagle, LLC, are subsidiaries of American Seafoods.) One previous 32-count NOVA, which is still pending for the same type of offense, was issued against F/V AMERICAN DYNASTY in 2012.

The charges against OCEAN ROVER include one count of adjusting the flow scale away from the zero value on six different days between January and March of 2011, and 32 counts of the flow scale being "not maintained in proper operating condition" between February 4 and May 5 of 2011. NORTHERN EAGLE was charged with 41 counts between February 11 and March 29, 2011, for also not maintaining their flow scale in line with proper operating conditions, and with 40 additional counts during a corresponding time period for failing to record accurate weights in the log book.

The accusations amount to saying that operators on these vessels tampered with the flow scales in order to record a lower weight, thus catching more than their quota and essentially taking pollock away from other fishers who are weighing their catches properly. Improper weighing and inaccurate log entries are considered stealing and, as such, are illegal under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

The assessment against NORTHERN EAGLE is $1,337,000, the one against OCEAN ROVER is for $848,000, and the pending case against AMERICAN DYNASTY is for $543,500. After being issued a NOVA, those involved have 30 days to either pay the fine, seek modification of the assessment, request an administrative hearing, or deny some or all of the charges and question the penalties.

Last June, after being cited by the EPA for illegally bringing over 70,000 kilograms of R-22 into U.S. waters and not properly maintaining vessel refrigerant units between 2006 and 2009, American Seafoods and subsidiary Pacific Longline Company, LLC, agreed to pay $700,000 in fines, purchase and retire R-22 allowances, convert a number of vessel refrigeration units into non-ozone depleting units, and phase out their use of R-22.

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