OLYMPIA - Attorney General Rob McKenna today filed suit against a Canadian seafood supplier and its officers for allegedly conspiring with a convicted poacher to steal more than 65 tons of geoduck from South Puget Sound.
The civil lawsuit, filed today in Thurston County Superior Court under the state's Criminal Profiteering Act, seeks millions of dollars in damages and penalties from Clear Bay Fisheries, Inc., and two of Clear Bay's corporate officers, Jeffrey Stephen Albulet and Julian Ng.
"This case is not just about protecting our natural resources, its about protecting the public's interest in Puget Sound and its unique fishery resources," said McKenna. "We'll use all the tools we have available to ensure that those who would violate the laws we have in place to protect those valuable resources are held accountable."
According to the complaint, Clear Bay financed a major geoduck poaching ring conducted by Douglas Martin Tobin in southern Puget Sound during 2000 and 2001. It also alleges the company provided a market for Tobin's illegal catch, purchasing more than 130,000 pounds of stolen geoduck with an estimated retail value of more than $1.5 million. Tobin is currently serving 14 years in prison for theft of geoduck, trafficking in poached shellfish and other crimes.
The lawsuit seeks damages for lost resources, civil penalties and forfeiture of the 42-foot fishing vessel "Typhoon," used in Tobin's poaching operation. It also seeks a restraining order permanently preventing the defendants from participating in the shellfish industry in Washington State.
McKenna said he filed the complaint at the request of the Washington State Departments of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Natural Resources (DNR), which together with Washington treaty tribes, manage and monitor the $18 million-per-year commercial geoduck fishery in Washington State.
"Our enforcement detectives documented 155 sales of poached geoduck by Tobin to Clear Bay Fisheries between Jan. 1, 2000 and Nov. 6, 2001," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings. Using witnesses and documented evidence, the department continued to build its case against Clear Bay and corporate officers Albulet and Ng for several months after Tobin was sentenced, Koenings said.
"Our department greatly appreciates Attorney General McKenna's willingness to seek damages against a company we believe to be a partner in the overall conspiracy with Doug Tobin," Koenings said. "This investigation was a major undertaking, but it will have been well worthwhile if it sends a message that poachers - and the companies that buy stolen resources - won't be tolerated in Washington State."
"Our DNR staff and State Fish and Wildlife have partnered with the tribes to manage a healthy geoduck fishery -" said Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland "- a fishery that provides funding to protect fish and aquatic wildlife, to clean up contamination, build public access projects and so much more. I thank Attorney General McKenna for energetically pursuing this illegal operation and sending a strong message to others who might consider theft of these public resources that do so much for the state."