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5-year prison term possible for pesticide supplier to Cooke Aquaculture

Banned in Canada, Cooke went to Maine for 72 gallons of deadly pesticide
A Maine feed store owner waived indictment and pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to making a false statement to federal agents in connection with the illegal use of a pesticide by Cooke Aquaculture subsidiary Kelly Cove Salmon five years ago.

Clyde Eldridge, 65, owner of local feed and pet store C&E Feeds, was questioned by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials as part of an investigation into the illegal use of cypermethrin on the New Brunswick side of Passamaquoddy Bay in 2009. The pesticide application killed hundreds of lobsters off Deer Island and Grand Manan in November and December 2009.

Cypermethrin is a synthetic insecticide used to control many pests, including moth pests of cotton, fruit and vegetable crops, according to information posted online by the Extension Toxicology Network. In aquaculture operations, it is used to treat infestations of sea lice, a parasitic crustacean that can weaken fish and expose them to infection and disease.

The pesticide is banned in Canada but not in Maine, where it can be used with prior permission from state officials. The use of pesticides in or near the ocean has long been a concern to Maine lobster fishermen who fear that it could harm the state’s $364 million lobster fishery.

In April 2013, CEO Glenn Cooke and other Cooke Aquaculture senior officials pleaded guilty in New Brunswick to using the banned pesticide in Canadian waters and was fined $500,000 CAD. Kelly Cove Salmon is a subsidiary of Cooke Aquaculture, which is based in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick, and is the largest aquaculture firm in Maine.

On Sept. 23, 2010, two EPA special agents assisting Environment Canada in the case asked Eldridge to identify anyone to whom he had sold cypermethrin and whether he had kept records of the sales, according to a press release issued Thursday by the U.S. attorney’s office. Eldridge told investigators he sold different amounts of cypermethrin to different people and that he did not keep track of the sales, prosecutors indicated.

The investigation revealed, however, that Eldridge sold cypermethrin on 10 or 11 occasions to a regional production manager employed by Kelly Cove Salmon, a subsidiary of Cooke Aquaculture, and that on each occasion, Eldridge made a note of the quantity picked up by the manager, the release said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Moore said Thursday that Eldridge later told investigators that he knew at the time that the person buying the pesticide was doing so on behalf of Cooke Aquaculture.

Court documents did not detail why Eldridge lied to investigators or why Kelly Cove Salmon used the pesticide illegally.

Moore said U.S. federal prosecutors did not have information about what quantity of the pesticide Eldridge sold to Kelly Cove Salmon. According to an agreed statement of facts accepted in New Brunswick Provincial Court at the time of the Canadian firm’s plea, Kelly Cove Salmon purchased 72 gallons of cypermethrin “from a specialized supplier” in 2009.

Eldridge, who is free on personal recognizance bail, faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The investigation was conducted by the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and Environment Canada.


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