Trio tried to sell thousands of pounds of infected crab from Alaska in Seattle, feds say

Three boat captains are charged with violating federal and state law after attempting a perilous plot.

In February and March, using two fishing boats, the trio caught 7,000 pounds of crab and illegally transported the lot to Seattle, skipping over the law-mandated step of getting a fish ticket from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, according to an April 22 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Alaska.

Now, one captain faces two charges of unlawful transportation of fish or wildlife, while the others face one count of the same violation.

McClatchy News reached out to one of the captains’ lawyers for comment on April 24. However, the attorney, newly assigned to the case, wasn’t able to offer comment at this time.

Rather than harvest the crab at a port in Alaska, the group headed straight for Seattle, where it planned to sell its catch at a higher price than it could have in Alaska.

Skirting the ticket process became a fatal error. When the captains arrived in Washington, a large portion of the crabs were dead. According to court documents, many of the crabs were infected with Bitter Crab Syndrome (BCS), a parasitic disease that is deadly to crabs.

In fact, as one captain admitted, a portion of the crabs had to be disposed of mid-transit due to the disease.

Court documents say that had the captains’ crab harvest been properly accounted for by the Department of Fish and Game before attempting to be sold, the infected crab would have been identified and disposed of before leaving Alaska.

Although BCS does not harm humans, it can wipe out entire crab populations. When the captains arrived in Washington, their entire catch had to be disposed of.

Crabs affected with BCS “have a very bitter or astringent aftertaste, and the meat is chalky when cooked, making them unmarketable resulting in serious economic losses when prevalences are high,” according to a 2022 article from Science Direct.

Law enforcement executed a search warrant on the captains and the boats. At the time, the trio was not on the same boat. The first captain to be searched alerted the other two. By the time the authorities got to the others, the duo had deleted all text messages pertaining to their plot.

Although this is also a violation of the law, obstruction of justice is not one of the charges in the court documents.

The first hearing is scheduled for May 2.

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