U.S. indicts Sanford for environmental crimes
The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday announced that a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., has returned a seven-count indictment charging New Zealand fishing company Sanford Ltd. with violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
The crew of the F/V San Nikunau, a Sanford-operated vessel that delivers tuna to an American Samoa cannery, is accused of “routinely” discharged oily bilge waste from the vessel directly into the sea since 2007. Sanford is also charged with violating the APPS for failing to accurately maintain an oil record book for the vessel and with obstruction of justice for “presenting false documents and deceiving the Coast Guard during an inspection.”
Following the indictment, Sanford immediately responded that it will “vigorously” fight the accusations and continue to work with American Samoa authorities to
get its vessel released so it can resume fishing.
“Sanford Ltd. takes its responsibilities to respect the ocean and its resources extremely seriously and would never permit discharges of pollutants into the ocean and nor would we obstruct any reasonable investigation into any allegations made against the company,” said Sanford Managing Director Eric Barratt in a prepared statement.
The San Nikunau, which has a crew of 19, is one of three large freezer tuna purse seiners operated by Sanford throughout the Pacific and occasionally in New Zealand. The three vessels target skipjack tuna, which is mostly used for canning and is often unloaded and sold to one of two canneries in Pago Pago, American Samoa. Sanford has owned the vessel since 2001.
If convicted, Sanford could be fined up to USD 500,000 per count or twice the gross gain or loss that resulted from the criminal conduct, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The indictment also seeks criminal forfeiture from Sanford of more than USD 24 million for proceeds derived by the company as a result of the conduct.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard and is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section.