The former site of Seven Seas Fish Market in South Surrey’s South Point Annex has ‘closed forever,’ according to a notice on the now-empty storefront’s window. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Owner of seafood company pleads guilty to illegally importing fish into U.S.

‘We would not put customer health and safety at risk’: Seven Seas Fish

The owner of a seafood company formerly associated with South Surrey is facing up to a year in prison after pleading guilty last week to illegally importing fish into the U.S. five years ago.

According to a news release issued Oct. 18 by the U.S. Department of Justice, John Heras of Richmond-based Seven Seas Fish Company pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle to “importation of previously refused food.”

“The company and Heras admit that between October 2014 and August 2015, they imported more than 9,000 pounds of potentially adulterated fish into the U.S. The fish had previously been refused entry into the U.S., because the FDA judged samples of the fish too decomposed and putrid,” the news release states.

Seven Seas – which used to operate in South Point Annex, at 103-2990 152 St. and continues to do business in Kitsilano and Richmond – has agreed to pay a $150,000 fine, the release adds.

A statement posted to the company’s website Monday acknowledges the court proceedings and guilty plea. The charges were “vigorously defended” prior to the guilty plea, the statement notes.

“Importantly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not find any health impacts linked to the shipments in question.”

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, records filed in the case show Seven Seas purchased 12,100 pounds of frozen corvina – a white fish similar to sea bass – for $36,375 from a seafood company in Mexico, and attempted to import the fish at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.

“However, when Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Consumer Safety Officers examined the fish, they determined that one third of the samples from the shipment were more than 20 percent spoiled. The shipment was refused entry to the U.S. However, Seven Seas arranged for the fish to be lawfully shipped through the U.S. to its plant in Richmond, BC, claiming that the product would be distributed in Canada.”

After the fish arrived in B.C., 78-year-old Heras – a Delta resident – cooked and ate some of it and claimed he found nothing wrong with it, the statement adds.

“Despite his knowledge that the fish had been refused entry to the U.S., Heras encouraged others within Seven Seas to sell the fish to customers in Washington State and elsewhere.”

Seven Seas’ statement notes the company “takes our reputation, the quality of our products and the safety of our customers very seriously.”

“While the company has acknowledged our role in this matter and understands how our approach and communications with authorities should have been handled more proactively, we would not put customer health and safety at risk,” it states.

“Based on learning from this event, Seven Seas implemented rigorous company-wide training and improved processes to reinforce the team’s understanding of US Customs and FDA procedures.”

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, importation of previously refused food is punishable by up to a year in prison. Prosecutors in the Seven Seas case have agreed to recommend a probationary sentence for Heras. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 7.



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

What would you like to ask Hope’s Mayor on COVID-19?

Send us your questions, ahead of a conversation with Peter Robb

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

‘It’s frightening’: Hemlock Valley trucker on being on the road during COVID-19

Armed with a keychain-sized hand sanitizer, trucker Brennan Bateman set out for the United States

SD78, meet your new superintendent

Balan Moorthy takes over from Karen Nelson August 1

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

Logan Boulet Effect: Green Shirt Day calls on Canadians to become organ donors

While social distancing, the day also honours the 16 lives lost in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos Crash

COMMENTARY: Knowing where COVID-19 cases are does not protect you

Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. withholds community names

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

B.C. wide burning restrictions come into effect April 16

‘Larger open burns pose an unnecessary risk and could detract from wildfire detection’

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Look at hospitalizations, not recovery stats for COVID-19, B.C. professor says

Cases in hospital are a definitive count of people who have the novel coronavirus

B.C. First Nations want to launch fight of Trans Mountain pipeline approval

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada decided not to hear five challenges about the pipeline

Most Read