Feds pinch Southeast Alaska skippers for illegally transporting crab

Commercial Tanner crab in Petersburg, Alaska in 2023. (Photo by Andy Wright)

Three men are charged in federal court for illegally transporting Alaska crab to sell in Washington. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Alaska says Kyle Potter and Justin Welch caught crab in Southeast Alaska this spring and moved them to Seattle at the direction of Potter’s dad, Corey.

The federal indictment says Corey Potter owns the two fishing vessels involved, which were run by his son, Kyle, and Welch. One of the boats is the 97-foot Arctic Dawn, which has been docked in Petersburg this spring but is registered to a Kodiak residence.

The two captains participated in the Southeast Tanner and golden king crab fisheries in February and March, harvesting over 7,000 pounds. Corey Potter allegedly directed the two captains to transport the crab to Seattle to fetch a higher price. By the time they arrived, a lot of the king crab was already dead and about 4,000 pounds of Tanner had to be thrown out because of bitter crab syndrome. Bitter crab is a common parasite and is sorted out at Alaska ports when fishermen sell their catch. It causes the crab to taste bad but isn’t harmful.

The federal indictment says Kyle Potter and Welch never recorded their harvests at an Alaskan port, which is required by state law. And they took the undocumented crab through Canadian and Washington waters, which is against a federal law called the Lacey Act.

Corey Potter is being charged in federal court with two counts of unlawfully transporting fish or wildlife. Kyle Potter and Justin Welch are being charged with one count each of the same thing. Their first court appearance is set for May 2 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew M. Scoble in U.S. District Court in Anchorage.

In February, Justin Welch was fined $1,000 in Petersburg court for using king crab pots that don’t allow smaller crabs to escape. He was put on probation for one year. Back in 2016, Corey Potter and his family, including Kyle, were rescued from their 74-foot tender boat “The Ambition” when it sank near False Pass in the Aleutian Islands.

Attorneys for the men are not listed in the federal indictment. The U.S. Attorney’s office would not make further comments.

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