A Seattle seafood company has agreed to nearly $1 million in fines after several of its ships dumped seafood processing waste into protected areas of the North Pacific Ocean and committed other Clean Water Act violations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a Thursday news release.
The EPA cited American Seafoods Co. LLC and five of its vessels for breaching terms of their pollution discharge permits, including illegal releases into the Heceta and Stonewall bank areas, two rocky banks off the Oregon coast known for commercial fishing and biodiversity. The company also failed to meet a variety of reporting and discharge monitoring requirements while harvesting and processing fish, racking up hundreds of violations altogether, according to the news release from the EPA.
American Seafoods has a fleet of ships that fish species including wild Alaska pollock and Pacific cod in the North Pacific and the Bering Sea and process, package and freeze products while on the water, according to the company website.
The citations were issued after the EPA assessed the industry in Oregon and Washington and found that American Seafoods and its vessels were far less compliant with regulations than other offshore fish processors, the agency said.
"In amassing hundreds of violations from illegal discharges to sloppy and even non-existent record-keeping American Seafoods Company demonstrated a clear disregard for the fragile and valuable resources that sustain its business," Ed Kowalski, director of the EPA's Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division in Seattle, said in the news release.
The EPA prohibits seafood processing vessels from dumping in areas that are shallower than 100 meters in depth, where fish, crab and other marine species already face low-oxygen conditions, according to the news release.
Under a series of consent agreements filed with the EPA's regional hearing clerk on Sept. 22, American Seafoods and the business entities listed as the owners of each of the five vessels — American Dynasty LLC, American Triumph LLC, Northern Eagle LLC, Northern Jaeger LLC and Ocean Rover LLC — agreed to pay a total of $999,000 in penalties.
A separate administrative order on consent, effective Aug. 17, also requires that the companies institute systematic improvements to ensure they comply with the terms of their permits, issued through the EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System for offshore seafood processors who discharge wastewater into federal waters off the Washington and Oregon coasts.
"When issuing a permit, EPA confers to the permit holder the responsibility to protect our nation's resources," Kowalski said. "We expect the company-wide, systematic overhaul of its operations will re-focus American Seafoods Company on the true value of its permit, the importance of tracking compliance with the permit, and the resources that permit entrusts it with protecting."
American Seafoods did not immediately respond to a request for comment