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Judge rejects request by Bering seafood companies to block penalties for alleged violations of federal shipping law


Crew members shovel pollock on the deck of a fishing boat after a harvest in the Bering Sea in 2019 (Nat Herz / Alaska Public Media)

A federal judge has so far dismissed a demand by some of the Bering Sea’s largest seafood companies to prevent the Biden administration from imposing additional fines on them for alleged violations of federal laws on navigation.

U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason on Tuesday released her 25-page ruling dismissing the claim of a subsidiary of Bering’s sea pollock harvesting giant, American Seafoods, and a related company, Kloosterboer.

Seafood companies had turned to an array of lawyers to advocate, including former President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz. They said U.S. customs and border protection threatened them and other companies in their supply chain with penalties exceeding $ 300 million.

Related: New $ 350 million Bering Sea fish battle may hinge on miniature Canadian railroad

The penalties were for the use of a Canadian model railroad to satisfy a provision of a federal law called the Jones Act. It allows goods to be shipped between US ports on foreign flag vessels only if their route includes Canadian rail lines.

Gleason, in his ruling Tuesday, denied the companies’ request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.

She said the companies had met a legal standard required for it to issue the injunction, raising valid questions about whether the sanctions cause irreparable harm to seafood companies.

But she added that the companies had not shown that they were complying with federal shipping law, nor had they pursued all of their options to appeal directly to CBP.

Gleason dismissed the request without prejudice, meaning companies can resuscitate it if they go to CPB and fail.

The companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

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