Owner, Captains of Crabbing Vessels Charged with Illegal Seafood Transport

Image: United States District Court.

A federal grand jury in Anchorage has indicted the owner and captains of two crab catcher vessels on charges of illegally transporting crab from Alaska in violation of the Lacey Act, which bans trafficking in fish, wildlife, or plants that are illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold.

Court documents released on Monday, April 22, cited Corey Potter as the owner of the two crab catching vessels and Justin Welch and Kyle Potter as captains of the vessels, in the alleged taking of crab through Canadian and Washington waters.

Corey Potter was charged with two counts of unlawful transportation of fish or wildlife in violation of federal law. Justin Welch and Kyle Potter were both charged with one count of the same violation.

Court documents did not identify the vessels or hometowns of the defendants, who were scheduled for an initial court appearance May 2 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew M. Scoble in U.S. District Court.

The indictment alleges that in February and March of 2024 the vessels harvested over 7,000 pounds of Tanner and golden king crab in Southeast Alaska, after which Corey Potter allegedly directed Kyle Potter and Welch to take the crab to Seattle, where they intended to sell it at a higher price than they would get in Alaska.

Neither captain landed the harvested crab at a port in Alaska and the harvest was never recorded on a fish ticket, a requirement under state law.

Upon arrival in Washington, a large portion of the king crab was reportedly deceased and unmarketable. Corey Potter allegedly acknowledged that some of the crab aboard the vessels was infected with Bitter Crab Syndrome (BCS), a parasitic disease that is fatal to crustaceans.

Over 4,000 additional pounds of Tanner crab were destroyed due to the risk of BCS infection.

Court documents allege that had the crab been properly landed in Alaska, the harvest would have been inspected and infected crab would have been sorted out and disposed of before leaving Alaska.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $20,000 fine per count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors, Alaska Department of Law officials said.

The indictments are merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.