Wildlife cops bust black market crab ring

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @gchittimK5

KING5.com

Posted on January 8, 2014 at 11:51 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 8 at 11:51 PM

BLAINE, Wash. - Washington State Fish and Wildlife officers and Lummi Tribal police teamed up this week to bust an alleged illegal seafood ring that involves distributors, commercial outlets and fishermen in three counties.

Officers simultaneously swooped in on 16 commercial fishermen, two wholesale fish companies and 10 retail establishments in Whatcom, Snohomish and King Counties. Investigators said the fishermen captured undocumented and undersized crab and sold them through the back doors of businesses that included some restaurants and nail salons.

The crab were taken before they could mature enough to spawn, stealing a future generation from a delicate and wild population.

Undercover video shows illegal crab being sold through the back doors of businesses.

"If you're buying your shellfish from a nail salon, chances are it's illegal," said WDF&W Deputy Chief Mike Cenci who joined in the arrest of two fishermen at the Blaine Marina.
   
In that case, officers watched as the fishermen loaded two, 55-gallon buckets into the back of a pickup truck. They surrounded the vehicle and counted 60 undersized crab in large 55-gallon cans.

Officers spent several months recording illegal crab sales in back alleys and behind businesses involving tens of thousands of dollars worth of crab.

Lummi Tribal Police assisted in the arrests of tribal fishermen and the seizure of boats and vehicles used to carry out the alleged illegal transactions.
   
Some of those arrested face crimes ranging from civil charges to class ‘C’ felonies that carry fines and possible jail time

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