Salmon dumping to cost company $60,000

Posted: Friday, April 14, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Dumping 3.2 million pounds of salmon in Southeast waters last July will cost Ward Cove Packing Co. of Seattle $60,000.

The company and one of its Southeast plant managers reached a plea agreement Wednesday for the dumping of fish in Icy Strait.

The agreement stipulates that charges against Excursion Inlet Plant Manager Gary Moore would be dismissed, and 19 charges of fish dumping against Ward Cove would be consolidated into one.

Ward Cove entered a no contest plea and agreed to pay a $10,000 fine, the maximum penalty under state law. The company also agreed to pay $50,000 in restitution.

''If there is any question in the processors' minds, the state is very clear that it puts a value on salmon and other resources like crab and herring,'' said Eric Aarseth, an Anchorage assistant district attorney. ''We expect resources to be treated properly and used.''

The $50,000 restitution works out to about 2 cents a pound, which Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins deemed ''a mighty low price.'' Aarseth said arguments could be made for a value of zero to $1 a pound, but that 2 cents was a good representation of bulk value.

During the hearing, defense attorney Louis Menendez attempted to cast doubt on the amount of salmon wasted, saying troopers gathered evidence after the fact.

''We contest those numbers,'' Menendez said.

However, trooper Sgt. Mike Fox got his figures from numbers recorded by the captain of the Marmot, the company-owned vessel that hauled the fish to Icy Strait.

Menendez also suggested the statute under which Ward Cove was charged was badly written and perhaps restitution did not apply at all to this case.

Ward Cove issued a statement after the hearing that said it had not intended to dispose of surplus fish.

''Faced with an unexpected and unprecedented volume of fish, we suffered an operational breakdown, which led to the charges being filed,'' Ward Cove said. ''We have exhaustively reviewed our operational procedures and have instituted operational and management changes that will ensure that such an unfortunate event will not happen again.''

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