NOAA 2002-083
Contact: Susan Buchanan
NOAA News Releases 2002
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Special agents of the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently seized over 33 tons of illegally imported Chilean sea bass in Boston. The shipment, valued at approximately $275,000, was seized after NOAA Fisheries law enforcement agents received information from the Australian government that the fish were illegally harvested from Antarctic waters.

Following a federal investigation, the violators may also face civil penalties and criminal fines, along with forfeiture of the valuable shipment of fish. Seizure of the shipment harvested by the Arvisa I, an Uruguayan-flagged commercial fishing vessel, occurred with coordination from the Department of State and counterparts in Australia.

"This seizure is another example of our commitment to ensuring that Chilean sea bass marketed, sold and consumed in the U.S. is legal product and not contributing to the depletion of this valuable resource," said Bill Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries. "I want to send a message to all those attempting to import illegal Chilean sea bass into the United States that we will catch you and confiscate your shipment."

This seizure is one of several recent cases involving the attempted importation of illegally harvested Chilean sea bass. In April, NOAA special agents seized approximately 32 tons of Chilean sea bass landed in New Bedford and Los Angeles. Last July, two shipments totaling 23 tons were seized in Newark.

NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Customs Service are coordinating an initiative with several other countries to crack down on illegal fishing for Chilean sea bass.

Chilean sea bass, also known as Patagonian toothfish, is a high value fish that is primarily harvested from waters surrounding Antarctica. The fishery is managed internationally under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Certain fishing grounds of the Patagonian toothfish fishery are at risk of becoming overfished, largely due to illegal and unreported fishing.

The United States is a member of the convention and strongly supports international efforts to protect this fishery and eliminate illegal fishing for Chilean sea bass. As part of these efforts, NOAA and the U.S. Customs Service aggressively monitor imports of Chilean sea bass to ensure that imported fish are lawfully harvested and comply with all convention requirements.

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitats. For more information on NOAA and Chilean sea bass, see the NOAA news release and fact sheet of March 25, 2002 on the Web at: