600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

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March 18, 2010
Contact: WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci
Office: (360) 902-2938 or cell: (360) 581-3305

Shellfish poaching investigation leads to arrests

OLYMPIA— Two people were arrested today in Quilcene as a result of a 13-month investigation into clam and oyster thefts from state and private lands.

Enforcement officers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), working with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, made the arrests after serving search warrants on G & R Quality Seafood—also known as Quil Bay Seafood—in Quilcene. Officers seized 300 pounds of hard-shell clams, 100 pounds of oysters, two barges, a 16-foot fiberglass vessel, five firearms and a van. The seized shellfish did not bear required certification from the state Department of Health and will be destroyed as required by state law, according to WDFW Enforcement Deputy Chief Mike Cenci.

Information gathered during the investigation will be turned over to the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office.

WDFW’s investigation was conducted in cooperation with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard. During the course of the investigation, WDFW officers, sheriff deputies, NOAA enforcement agents and Coast Guard officers interviewed more than 20 people suspected of being linked to the violations.

Based on the investigation, WDFW detectives believe the seafood company employed harvesters to steal thousands of pounds of oysters and hard-shell clams from state and private tidelands in the Quilcene, Dabob and north Hood Canal areas.