Crime & Courts

3 fishermen accused of illegally transporting Alaska crab to Seattle for better prices

Three fishermen are facing federal charges after being accused of illegally transporting more than 7,000 pounds of crab harvested in Southeast Alaska to Seattle in hopes of getting better prices there.

Instead, federal prosecutors say, much of the haul was wasted upon arrival in Washington state because the crab had either died or were suspected of being diseased.

Corey Potter, Justin Welch and Kyle Potter were indicted last week on charges they violated the Lacey Act. The law makes it a federal crime to break the wildlife laws of any state, tribe or foreign country, and then move or trade the wildlife across U.S. borders.

Corey Potter owned the two crab boats involved in the scheme, and his son, Kyle Potter, and Welch worked as captains, according to a brief proposing conditions of release filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Brickley. Federal prosecutors identified the boats as the Arctic Dawn and the Gambler.

The boats are based in Kodiak, according to the Kodiak Daily Mirror.

The two boats harvested more than 7,000 pounds of Tanner and golden king crab during February and March in Southeast Alaska, the brief said. Corey Potter directed the captains to take the crab to Seattle, where they planned to sell it at a higher price than they could get in Alaska, it said.

Alaska law requires crab boats to land at a port within the state and record harvests on a fish ticket. One purpose of the law is to detect bitter crab syndrome, a common disease caused by a parasite that’s fatal to crab, and salvage any that are not infected. By avoiding Alaska ports, the men evaded that process, according to an indictment filed in the case.


By the time the two boats arrived in Washington, more than 1,200 pounds of king crab had died and was no longer marketable, according to the brief. Another 4,200 pounds of Tanner crab — the entire harvest — was destroyed upon arrival because some of the crab were found to have bitter crab syndrome, the brief said.

“This type of conduct has a direct impact on the future viability of the crab fishery in Alaska and steals crab from the pots of law-abiding fishermen,” Brickley wrote in the brief.

Alaska crab harvests in general have crashed in recent years as populations dwindle in warming waters.

All three men are scheduled for a first court appearance in early May.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at