Alaska charges processor with letting 400 tons of salmon rot

A former fish processor accused of letting 400 tons of Alaska salmon rot and stiffing the fishermen who sold it has been charged with five misdemeanors for what prosecutors called "an environmental and economic catastrophe."

The Alaska attorney general's office filed charges of violating Alaska's Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act this week against Wild Alaskan Seafood Co. LLC, and its primary manager, Jeremy M. Oliver, 36, both of Washington state. Also charged was the company's banker, Strategica Import-Export Financial Group LLC, and its manager, Jay Enis, both of Florida.

Neither Oliver nor Enis could be reached for comment Thursday.

If convicted, the men could face up to a year in jail on each charge, and the corporations could face a $200,000 (Ђ155,123) fine per charge.

The economic loss to unpaid fishermen and employees of the processing plant likely exceeded $1 million (Ђ780,000), according to prosecutors, who called the collapse of the 2004 fishery at Ekuk "an environmental and economic catastrophe."

The spoiled fish were destroyed to avert a public health catastrophe and ensure the integrity and reputation of the Alaska's seafood industry, prosecutors said.

Oliver had little experience in the Alaska seafood industry when he helped form Wild Alaskan Seafood in 2004 with the plan to freeze whole salmon for shipment to out-of-state wholesalers.

He leased a processing plant in Ekuk, once a Yup'ik Eskimo village on Alaska's southwest coast, and told fishermen that an Oregon company would buy their fish and his employees would renovate the plant. Strategica bought Wild Alaskan Salmon's assets in early June 2004 and the right to control its activities, but Oliver remained manager.

Prosecutors say Oliver painted a rosy picture of the business plan.

He hired dozens of seasonal workers and started operations on June 14, 2004, purchasing salmon from more than three dozen fishermen.

But fishermen almost immediately began warning state officials that the company's storage was not adequate, reports AP.

The charges against Oliver and the other defendants involved processing adulterated seafood, adulteration of food, mishandling seafood, processing salmon without a hazard analysis critical control point plan and processing salmon without a sanitation plan.

Strategica was administratively dissolved by the Florida Division of Corporations in September 2005.

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