EPA fines largest at-sea Alaska pollock processor nearly $1M for Clean Water Act violations

a ship
An American Seafoods Company vessel in the Port of Dutch Harbor in June 2020. (Hope McKenney/KUCB)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fined one of Alaska’s biggest fishing companies nearly $1 million for Clean Water Act violations.

American Seafoods Company is the world’s largest at-sea processor of Alaska pollock and holds the largest allocation of wild Pacific hake. The company operates a fleet of seven vessels in the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea.

The EPA cited the company and the owners of its vessels for hundreds of violations along the Oregon and Washington coasts, including discharging waste in a protected area, failure to monitor discharges and reporting inaccurate information in required annual reports, according to a Thursday statement.

“Discharge of seafood processing waste in prohibited areas and within the 100-meter depth contour of Washington and Oregon exacerbates already existing low-oxygen conditions which negatively impact most fishes, crabs and other marine life,” the EPA said.

An American Seafoods spokesperson said the company was notified of the allegations in March. Since then, he said the company has provided all documentation to the EPA, and that it’s also assigned additional staff and updated its processes to ensure reporting is “complete, accurate and timely.”

The EPA found that American Seafoods and the owners of its vessels had noticeably more severe and much higher number of violations than other Oregon and Washington offshore fish processors during a compliance check of the industry. The vessels are the American Dynasty, American Triumph, Northern Eagle, Northern Jaeger and Ocean Rover.

The EPA is requiring American Seafoods to conduct “corporate-wide, systemic improvements” to ensure compliance with its permits, and ordering it to pay $999,000 in penalties.

“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,” said Ed Kowalski, director of EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division in Seattle. “When issuing a permit, EPA confers to the permit holder the responsibility to protect our nation’s resources. 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.”

When asked about the company’s Alaska operations, an EPA spokesperson did not say whether or not the agency is currently bringing any enforcement actions against them.

In August, a crew member on an American Seafoods factory trawler died at sea near Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, likely from an ammonia leak on board.

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