OLYMPIA – Attorney General Rob McKenna today announced a settlement with Clear Bay Fisheries, Inc., resolving allegations that the Canadian seafood supplier and its officers conspired with a convicted poacher to steal more than 65 tons of geoduck from South Puget Sound.
Under the settlement agreement, Clear Bay Fisheries agreed to pay $112,500 in restitution to the State and release its liens in a vessel that had been used in the poaching operation. Clear Bay Fisheries and its officers also agreed to be permanently banned from engaging in the shellfish business in Washington. Clear Bay denies all liability and made no admissions of liability in settling with the state.
“This is the second-largest geoduck poaching case brought in our state’s history, and it should send a message that we’re ready and able to tackle complex jurisdictional issues when the natural resources of Puget Sound and its unique fisheries are threatened by illegal fishing,” McKenna said.
The Attorney General’s Office sued Clear Bay Fisheries, Inc., and two of its corporate officers, Jeffrey Stephen Albulet and Julian Ng last year under the state’s Criminal Profiteering Act. The complaint alleged that Clear Bay financed a major geoduck poaching ring conducted by Douglas Martin Tobin in southern Puget Sound during 2000 and 2001.
It also alleged the company provided a market for Tobin’s illegal catch, purchasing more than 130,000 pounds of stolen geoduck with an estimated retail value of more than $1.5 million. Tobin is currently serving 14 years in prison for theft of geoduck, trafficking in poached shellfish and other crimes.
The lawsuit was filed at the request of the Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Natural Resources (DNR), which together with Washington treaty tribes, manage and monitor the $18 million-per-year commercial geoduck fishery in Washington State.
"Each year the state's sustainable geoduck fishery generates millions in funding to protect, restore and enhance our aquatic ecosystems," said Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland, who leads DNR. "And, in addition, it helps pay for local projects that create public access to the waters of our state. We appreciate the rigorous effort by the attorney general to send a clear message that these public resources will be protected."
“Our willingness to go beyond our borders to seek restitution in this case demonstrates the importance we place on protecting our state’s natural resources,” said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings, PhD. “Proceeds from this settlement will be returned directly to benefit and protect the resource to help ensure it is sustained over time.”
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