FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 5, 2023
Canadian Company Pleads Guilty to Illegally Selling Harp Seal Oil in the United States
FeelGood Natural Health Stores Ltd. (FeelGood) pleaded guilty today to one count of violating the Lacey Act by knowingly transporting and selling harp seal oil capsules in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The MMPA makes it unlawful to transport or sell any marine mammal, including harp seals, or products thereof, for any purpose other than public display, scientific research, or enhancing the survival of a species or stock.
According to the plea agreement, FeelGood is a Canadian corporation located in Whitby, Ontario, Canada. Between at least April 2019 and May 2021, FeelGood offered harp seal oil capsules for sale in the United States on both its own webpage and a third-party platform. It did so even though its website on the third-party platform acknowledged, “NOT ship to USA,” and though FeelGood received a notice that some shipments had been seized by the federal government for violation of the MMPA. Nevertheless, FeelGood shipped at least 936 bottles of capsules valued at over $10,000. FeelGood either shipped purchased items directly from Canada to the customer in the United States (in some instances a covert U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agent) or shipped the items from or through fulfillment centers run by a third party in the United States.
“Our wildlife laws were passed to ensure the continued existence and enjoyment of these natural resources for future generations,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Those who deliberately exploit marine mammals for commercial purposes in U.S. markets in violation of our wildlife laws will be criminally prosecuted.”
“This office takes the security of our borders very seriously. The illegal importation of marine mammal products not only violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act but also jeopardizes the safety of protected species such as harp seals,” said U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison for the Eastern District of Michigan.
FeelGood faces a maximum sentence of a fine of $500,000 and five years’ probation. Pursuant to the plea agreement the parties agree to recommend a fine of $20,000 and three years’ probation during which FeelGood must create and implement a compliance plan, train its employees, obtain any necessary licenses, and cooperate fully with the government. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 28.
The Lacey Act prohibits trafficking in fish and wildlife, or plants taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of underlying federal, state, foreign or Indian Tribal law. The Lacey Act also prohibits making or submitting a false label, record, or account of fish, wildlife, or plant that has been or is intended to be transported in interstate or foreign commence.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement investigated the case.
The Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan prosecuted the case.
Updated June 5, 2023Original Article