Texas importer sues government in fish feud at end of world

Oct 18, 2022, 8:10 AM | Updated: 12:01 pm

MIAMI (AP) — A small Texas seafood importer has sued the federal government for blocking a shipment of fish from protected waters near Antarctica — an area at the center of a diplomatic feud dividing the normally allied U.S. and U.K. governments.

Southern Cross Seafoods said in a complaint filed last week in the U.S. International Trade Court that the decision to bar importation of Chilean sea bass was arbitrary, illegal and would cause significant economic harm to its business.

But U.S. officials argue that the shipment could set a precedent that potentially could lead to overfishing in a sensitive part of the South Atlantic — while also undermining longstanding international agreements.

The seemingly small case flows out of an international fish fight at the bottom of the world set off by Russia’s rejection last year of catch limits for marine life near the south Pole.

Every year for four decades, governments banded together in the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources have set catch limits based on scientists’ recommendations.

Since the commission works by consensus, Russia’s refusal was an effective veto of the international limits.

The U.K.’s response was to unilaterally issue its own licenses to fish for sea bass off the coast of South Georgia, an uninhabited island it controls in the south Atlantic. That drew vociferous fire from environmentalists as well as the U.S. government, which believes it undermines international fisheries management.

“This unfortunate situation is unprecedented,” a senior official from the U.S. National Marine Fishery Service wrote in a letter to Southern Cross that denied its August application to import frozen sea bass. “It poses novel legal and policy questions, and implicates sensitive foreign affairs concerns.”

The issue is expected to dominate discussions at the annual meeting of the Antarctic commission next week in Tasmania, Australia.

Argentina, which claims sovereignty over South Georgia island, has put forward a proposal to blacklist as illegal any vessels authorized by the U.K. to fish in the protected waters. While that proposal is unlikely to succeed, Russia has given no indication that it intends to adopt the recommended catch limits, meaning the impasse is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Chilean sea bass from South Georgia can sell for $32 a pound in U.S. supermarkets and for decades the fishery near South Georgia was a poster child for international cooperation. It brought together powers like Russia, China and the U.S. to protect the chilly, crystal blue southern ocean from the sort of fishing free-for-all seen on the high seas elsewhere.

Southern Cross said in its lawsuit that that the Antarctic commission’s rules don’t bar fishing for Patagonia toothfish, as sea bass is also known. It also said that its license was granted under the U.K.’s own limit for the current season of 1,670 metric tons — which was even lower than lower than the level recommended by commission scientists.

In rejecting Southern Cross’ application, U.S. officials acknowledged that there is no explicit ban. But they expressed concern that less responsible nations might used the precedent to block consensus on the commission and then fish without restrictions whatsoever.

Southern Cross was registered as a company in Texas only in June and doesn’t have a website. It lists its address as a waterfront, $1.1 million home in a suburb of Houston that belongs to the company’s two listed owners, Daniel and Jerri Thomas.

The company has received only two shipments of seafood in the U.S. — both of them Chilean sea bass sent to South Florida last month.

One of the shipments came from Argos Froyanes, a British-Norwegian company that pioneered techniques credited with dramatically reducing seabird mortality in the South Atlantic.

An attorney for Southern Cross declined to comment as did a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Follow Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

India’s G-20 energy meet to balance renewables, fossil fuels

BENGALURU, India (AP) — Over 500 energy industry heavyweights and 30,000 participants will descend on the southern Indian city of Bengaluru on Monday to discuss the future of renewables and fossil fuels at India Energy Week — the first big ticket event of the country’s presidency of the Group of 20 leading economies. Speakers, including […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Mega Millions lottery tickets and a wager slip are displayed, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Derry...
Arizona Sports

Drawing nears for $700M Powerball prize, 10th biggest in US

Another huge lottery jackpot will be on the line Saturday for players willing to put up $2 vs. daunting odds of actually winning the prize.
22 hours ago
Chinese spy balloon flies above in Charlotte NC, United States on February 04, 2023. The Pentagon a...
Associated Press

US downs suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast

The United States on Saturday downed a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast after it traversed sensitive military sites.
22 hours ago
A man works at an avocado orchard in Santa Ana Zirosto, Michoacan state, Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 26,...
Associated Press

Route to Super Bowl dangerous for Mexico’s avocado haulers

SANTA ANA ZIROSTO, Mexico (AP) — It is a long and sometimes dangerous journey for truckers transporting the avocados destined for guacamole on tables and tailgates in the United States during the Super Bowl. It starts in villages like Santa Ana Zirosto, high in the misty, pine-clad mountains of the western Mexico state of Michoacan. […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Iraqi currency crash halts after meeting with U.S. official

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s currency ended its nosedive after a meeting between the Iraqi Central Bank head and a top U.S. Treasury official. Under Secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence Brian E. Nelson said in a statement Saturday that he had met with Central Bank of Iraq Governor Ali al-Allaq in Istanbul […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Gas prices dip in NJ, around nation as cold weather returns

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gas prices dipped in New Jersey and around the country at large as cold weather descended on parts of the nation following an unusually warm January. AAA Mid-Atlantic says the average price of a gallon of regular gas in New Jersey on Friday was $3.42, down three cents from last week. […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Texas importer sues government in fish feud at end of world