Gloucester’s Cape Ann Seafood Exchange back in business after feds unfreeze accounts
The Cape Ann Seafood Exchange – the largest seafood auction in Gloucester, Massachusetts – was given the green light by the U.S. Labor Department to resume landing fish on Tuesday, 4 September, after the agency unfroze all bank accounts associated with the business, according to a report from the Gloucester Daily Times.
On 17 August, the federal agency seized all accounts affiliated with the auction and its owner, Kristian Kristensen, due to a civil action filed in 2016 by then-Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez to recover more than USD 200,000 (EUR 170,691) in unpaid back wages to around 130 employees. The action also called for a similar amount to be paid for liquidated damages to workers at both the auction and associated business, Zeus Packing. While Kristensen had been paying back wages, he still owed USD 240,000 (EUR 204,722) to the labor department when his accounts were seized, he told the Gloucester Daily Times last month.
This week, the Cape Ann Seafood Exchange is back up and running, thanks in large part to local politicians, including U.S. Representative Seth Moulton, State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, and State Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, Kristensen said.
“I’d have to say they’re at least 70 percent responsible for getting this done,” Kristensen told the Times. “Without their help, this probably wouldn’t have happened.”
Kristensen was first alerted of the seizure of his accounts via a text from his bank on the night of 17 August, stating that his accounts had fallen below USD 25.. (EUR 21.50).
“I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “I thought I might have been hacked.”
Because Kristensen could no longer pay them, fishermen who typically sold to the auction began landing catch at nearby locations, including Ocean Crest and Fisherman’s Wharf, instead in the days that followed. Now that negotiations are in place with local lawmakers and the U.S. Department of Labor, Kristensen said he looks forward to getting back to business.
“Now I just want to get back to work,” he told the Times.