Washington’s Westlake Seafood faces felony charges over failure to report Dungeness crab, sea urchin purchases

Westlake Seafood Owner Dalong Jiang
Westlake Seafood Owner Dalong Jiang | Photo courtesy of Dalong Jiang/LinkedIn
4 Min

Tacoma, Washington, U.S.A.-based Westlake Seafood has been charged with four felonies for allegedly failing to report Dungeness crab and sea urchin purchases to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

The company was charged with four counts of first-degree unlawful shellfish catch accounting, with each count carrying a maximum fine of USD 500,000 (EUR 462,000), according to The Chronicle, citing Pierce County Superior Court records.

The company allegedly did not report fish-receiving tickets (FRTs) amounting to more than USD 13,700 (EUR 12,640) worth of purchases from Washington sea urchin and Dungeness crab fishermen. An inspection by state authorities in March 2023 uncovered the tickets.

Wholesale fish dealers in Washington are required by law to report their purchases and sales via the tickets, which provide information on the fishers, the buyers, and the weight and price of each product.

"Sustainable management of the state's fisheries depends on fisherman and wholesale buyers to submit and complete accurate, timely FRTs," Washington Assistant Attorney General Kelsey Force said in the charging papers. "Fisheries need accurate harvest information to ensure they are setting sustainable harvest limits and seasons."

Westlake mostly exports live seafood to China, with a smaller business selling locally in Washington. Westlake Owner Dalong Jiang disputed the charges in an interview with the News Tribune.

"It's all about a report," Jiang said. "It's not like on purpose to receive any illegal fish. It's a different story."

According to the allegations, Jiang emailed two missing tickets to the WDFW after being notified they were missing in March 2023. Two days later, an inspection of Jiang’s office found four additional tickets ripped up in a trashcan, accounting for the purchase of thousands of pounds of green sea urchin and Dungeness crab.

Jiang said he thought he had already sent the tickets and was confused about his reporting requirements after receiving "different information" from WDFW.

One ticket discovered during the inspection didn't match Westlake's financial records, but a check matching the purchase date was found addressed to the fisherman listed on the ticket in Westlake’s banking and accounting records, according to the filing documents. The purchasing information allegedly listed more than 800 pounds of red sea urchin above the listing on the tickets, which Jiang allegedly attributed to his fish buyer "overpaying" to make up for back pay owed, or potentially as a means of providing a loan to the fisherman.

Additionally, the ticket was allegedly issued to Barlow Bay Fish Co., not Westlake. Jiang said it could have been due to his fish buyer borrowing the ticket.

This isn’t the first time Westlake has faced legal issues. In 2021, Ready Seafood sued Westlake Seafood, alleging the company owed it USD 85,000 (EUR 78,400) in unpaid bills.

SeafoodSource Premium

Become a Premium member to unlock the rest of this article.

Continue reading ›

Already a member? Log in ›


Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500