Owner, captains of crab fishing vessels charged with illegally transporting crab from Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska (KINY) – A federal grand jury in Alaska returned an indictment charging the owner and captains of two crab catcher vessels with illegally transporting crab from Alaska, in violation of the Lacey Act.

According to court documents, Corey Potter is the owner of the two crab catching vessels, and Justin Welch and Kyle Potter are the captains of the vessels.

In February and March 2024, the vessels harvested over 7,000 pounds of Tanner and golden king crab in Southeast Alaska.

C. Potter allegedly directed K. Potter and Welch to take the crab to Seattle, Washington, where they intended to sell it at a higher price than they would have in Alaska.

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

The crab was allegedly taken through Canadian and Washington waters.

Upon arrival in Washington, a large portion of the king crab was deceased and unmarketable.

C. Potter allegedly acknowledged that some of the crab aboard 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.

C. Potter is charged with two counts of unlawful transportation of fish or wildlife in violation of 16 U.S.C. 3372(a)(2)(A) and 3373(d)(1)(B), and Welch and K. Potter are both charged with one count of the same violation.

The defendants will make their initial court appearance on May 2 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew M. Scoble of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska.

If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment 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.

U.S. Attorney S. Lane Tucker of the District of Alaska and Assistant Director Benjamin Cheeseman with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement made the announcement.

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is investigating the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Brickey is prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.