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Customs dispute jeopardizes US fish stick, filet supply
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PORTLAND, Maine — A customs dispute at the U.S.-Canada border is threatening America's supply of a key fish used for popular products such as fish sticks and fast food sandwiches.
The Alaska pollock has a complicated supply chain. After being caught as part of the largest commercial fishery in the U.S., the fish are transported by ship to New Brunswick, Canada, near the border with Maine. They are then loaded onto rail cars for a brief trip down 100 feet (30 meters) of track in Canada, before being put on trucks and crossing the border into the U.S.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has alleged that shippers are violating the Jones Act, which requires that goods shipped between U.S. ports be transported on U.S.-owned ships.
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The agency has assessed more than $350 million in penalties to the shippers, records state. Two of the shipping companies have sued in federal court to stop the enforcement, which they characterized as heavy-handed, unexpected and unfair.
The dispute left 26 million pounds of fish in cold storage in Canada until a federal court judge issued an injunction on Sunday to let the seafood be shipped into the U.S. Members of the industry said they're concerned about permanent disruption to the seafood supply chain if the disagreement continues.