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

Just Posted

Local researcher hopes history can uncover an identity for Harrison

Veronique Astles believes Harrison has more history to uncover than just the resort

Variable speed limit system coming for Highway 3 near Hope

Congestion based system in testing phase between Chilliwack and Abbotsford by early 2020

Vent du Nord comes to Harrison for Season of Performing Arts

The francophone folk group will be performing Nov. 30

Salvation Army kettles return to Agassiz

The holiday fundraiser will be back in town for the month of December

Chilliwack Players Guild presents beloved classic ‘A Christmas Carol’

The Chilliwack Players Guild brings famous Dickens tale to life at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre

VIDEO: Agassiz, Harrison honour Remembrance Day

The annual ceremony took place at AESS, followed by a moment of silence at the Agassiz cenotaph

“I thought, enough is enough”: B.C. teen takes on bullies through social media

‘I thought, enough is enough. I wanted to try something to stop it.’

Audit finds Canada’s fisheries in decline and response lacks urgency

Report says 17 per cent of fish stocks are critically depleted, up from 13.4 per cent in 2018

Small group of Cherry fans protest his firing at Rogers HQ

One sign at the Toronto rally: ‘Rogers cancels Don, we cancel Rogers’

What happens if Metro Vancouver bus drivers start a ‘good work’ strike?

Unifor has said they could get ‘creative’ with fare collection if transit strike drags on

Maple Ridge’s anti-panhandling bylaw gets final OK

Council votes 6-1 to ban aggressive begging

Nearly half of B.C. drivers nervous in winter conditions: BCAA

‘Wait and see’ approach common practice for 32% of B.C. motorists

Autism support dog refused bus access for being a ‘pet’

B.C. grandmother files complaint with TransLink, calls for better awareness of service dogs

Students plan rally at B.C. education minister’s office as district strike enters third week

Saanich School District students plan to rally outside Rob Fleming’s constituency office in Victoria

Most Read