Zen owners fined for illegally purchasing subsistence caught Pacific halibut

The owners of the Zen Restaurant will pay a civil penalty of $18,000 over the next 12 months for illegally purchasing subsistence-harvested Pacific halibut in 2010, according to a settlement agreement signed on February 23.

This news was released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement.

The release stated that according to the agreement, Zen owners Cai W. Hu and Yai W. Hu purchased Pacific halibut they knew to have been harvested under a subsistence fishing permit on two occasions, in February and March of 2010, with the intention of serving the fish in their restaurants. The Northern Pacific Halibut Act, which governs the commercial, sport, charter and subsistence halibut fisheries in the U.S., prohibits the sale, offer for sale, trade or barter of subsistence-harvested halibut.

Following the purchase by the Hu’s, which was part of an undercover investigation by NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement’s Alaska Division, administrative search warrants were executed on the Hu residence and the Zen Restaurant, where agents seized the halibut.

“The subsistence halibut fishery is critically important to the traditions and survival of rural Alaskan coastal communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Sherrie Tinsley Myers of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement Alaska Division. “The federal laws that govern all halibut fisheries were specifically crafted to ensure that the subsistence halibut fishery does not compete or interfere with the commercial halibut fishery. It is precisely this principle that was violated in this case.”

The maximum civil penalty under the Northern Pacific Halibut Act is $200,000 for each violation.

The violations were reported to and investigated by NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement’s Alaska Division and prosecuted by NOAA’s Office of General Counsel’s Enforcement Section.

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