The former owner of a Quilcene Bay seafood company is facing at least five years in prison as the leader of a clam-and-oyster poaching ring responsible for illegally harvesting $700,000 worth of shellfish from beaches owned by the state and private individuals.
Rodney Allan Clark, 50, on Thursday pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree trafficking in stolen property and one count of reckless endangerment for selling uncertified shellfish to restaurants, fish markets and seafood wholesalers in the Seattle area and other parts of Western Washington, according to Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.
Clark, the owner of the now-closed G & R Quality Seafoods, and 11 of his employees were charged in 2011 for illegally harvesting clams and oysters from Jefferson and Kitsap county beaches between 2008 and 2010.
According to prosecutors, Clark directed his employees to secretly harvest the shellfish from isolated beaches, then sold it for profit. He also routinely doctored paperwork to conceal the enterprise from the state Department of Health, which requires that harvesting sites be certified to eliminate public health risks.
Eight of Clark’s employees pleaded guilty to misdemeanor fishing violations and have already been sentenced, Donohoe said. Charges were dismissed against two others and a warrant has been issued for one defendant, he said.
Clark is to be sentenced Feb. 6 and faces a prison term of just over 5 years to 7 years in prison.