Poacher draws 5 1/2 years in prison after investigation by WDFW Police

There has been a number of people wondering about who were poaching  these oysters.

SEATTLE – The former owner of a shellfish company based in Jefferson County was sentenced today to 5½ years in prison after a poaching investigation by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) proved he and his employees had stolen millions of oysters and clams off Washington beaches.

Rodney Allan Clark, 50, former owner of G&R Quality Seafood in Quilcene, pleaded guilty in King County Superior Court to 17 counts of trafficking in stolen property and one count of reckless endangerment for selling shellfish to the public without a state health certification.

Clark was also ordered to return to court next month for a hearing to determine restitution for the shellfish he and his employees stole from beaches in Jefferson and Kitsap counties.

Eight of Clark’s former employees, some of whom cooperated with the investigation, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor fishing violations in previous court appearances and received a combination of fines and jail time.

Clark’s sentencing marked the end of a high-profile case that was delayed for nearly a year after the former convict jumped bail in 2013 and fled the state. He was finally extradited from Hawaii under a warrant signed by Gov. Jay Inslee the following year.

Court records describe how a tip from a shellfish inspector for the Washington Department of Health prompted WDFW to open its investigation of G&R Quality Seafood in April 2009.

According to the health inspector, a shellfish buyer reported buying thousands of Clark’s oysters, which made some of his customers in Yakima and the Tri-Cities sick.

For the next 11 months, WDFW detectives developed a case on Clark and his employees, documenting their activities as they illegally harvested shellfish at night on isolated beaches in Jefferson and Kitsap counties. The detectives also monitored the movement of the stolen shellfish to King County, where Clark and his employees sold it at a profit to restaurants, fish markets, and seafood wholesalers.

WDFW Police Chief Steve Crown estimates that Clark and his employees illegally harvested more than $2 million worth of oysters and clams from publicly and privately owned beaches, but said the true value of the stolen shellfish may never be known.

“These poachers stripped entire beaches of oysters and clams, and recklessly sold uncertified shellfish for public consumption,” Crown said. “This was a crime against the people and the natural resources of our state, and we made it a priority to get their ringleader off the street and shut his operation down.”

In March 2010, the WDFW Police seized thousands of documents detailing the operations of G&R Quality Seafood after obtaining a warrant to search Clark’s office in Quilcene and other properties. Several other agencies participated in those raids, including the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Based on WDFW’s investigation, Clark was charged in King County Superior Court in December 2011, but was released on bail pending trial. In December 2013, he failed to appear for a pretrial court date, leading to an interstate search that led first to Alaska, then to Hawaii.

Clark, who previously served a prison sentence for drug offenses in Montana, was eventually arrested in Hawaii and extradited to Washington state under a warrant issued last year by Gov. Inslee.

“We’d like to thank all the agencies that helped us bring Rodney Allan Clark to justice, particularly the King County Prosecutor’s Office,” Crown said. “If the prosecutor hadn’t agreed to pursue this case, Rodney Clark would probably still be out on the oyster beds, plundering the state’s natural resources.”

Wild Olympics Gets Starring Role in National TV Program on PBS

“This American Land” Spotlights Area and Advocates, Releases Video of Segment Online

QUILCENE, Wash. (June 24, 2014) Washington’s Wild Olympics and the local effort to safeguard its clean water and old growth forests are highlighted in an upcoming episode of the television series This American Land, which airs nationwide on PBS stations. The segment features interviews with a number of Olympic Peninsula community members working to permanently protect ancient forests and salmon streams on Olympic National Forest as wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers.

“This American Land” has posted the entire Wild Olympics segment for viewing/sharing HERE.

In the piece, Port Townsend City Councilor Michelle Sandoval explains that people are drawn to the Peninsula for the recreational opportunities and stunning scenery, and stay because of the clean water and high quality of life. Bill Taylor of Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton describes the importance of this clean water to his Hood Canal oyster beds, calling it the “lifeblood” of his industry. John Lockwood, owner of Pygmy Boats in Port Townsend, says that small manufacturers like him depend on the area’s incredible recreation opportunities to stay afloat. Port Townsend Fish biologist, and director of Northwest Watershed Institute, Dr. Peter Bahls explains how Olympic Peninsula salmon runs are still recovering from a hundred years of overfishing and heavy timber harvesting on the national forest. And retired logger Fred Rakevich of Elma says though he’s traveled all over, the ancient forests and free-flowing rivers of the Wild Olympics remain “something we need to protect and cherish.”

Connie Gallant of Quilcene, chair of the Wild Olympics Campaign, who also appears in the program, says, “We are delighted that This American Land has included our beautiful piece of the world in its series. The many local voices featured showcase the broad local support for safeguarding this stunning landscape. They come from different backgrounds and interests and use our public land in various ways, but they find common ground in the desire to permanently protect our ancient forests and salmon streams just as they are as a legacy to future generations.”

“Our mission is to bring our viewers the kind of serious yet entertaining conservation journalism that broadens their knowledge of critical issues with stories that they won’t see anywhere else,” says This American Land executive producer Gary Strieker. “Each segment focuses on unique and little-known places that deserve protection.”

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have introduced legislation to permanently protect more than 126,000 acres of ancient and mature forests on Olympic National Forest as wilderness, and 19 Olympic Peninsula rivers and major tributaries as Wild and Scenic. The bill is aimed at permanently safeguarding critical salmon habitat, outdoor recreation and sources of clean drinking water for local communities. Backed by over 450 sportsmen organizations, local elected officials, business owners, conservation & outdoor recreation groups, and members of the faith community, the measure was crafted with considerable local stakeholder involvement over several years.

The Wild Olympics segment will air as part of the fourth season of This American Land, which will begin broadcasting in the Seattle area in August.http://www.thisamericanland.org

Quilcene Estuary Pollution id’ed

Updated by Greenfleet Monitoring, results are now in on samples taken in Quilcene estuary in last weeks. Apparently the ugly looking pollution was a summer algae bloom. This is exactly the kind of information on an ongoing basis that we need to better understand our Sound and Hood Canal. More at:

http://www.greenfleetme.org/headlines.htm

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