A jury in Alaska has returned a verdict of “not guilty” in the case of seafood companies accused by fishermen of conspiring to keep prices low.

Back in 1996, 4,500 fishermen filed a class action lawsuit seeking some US$1bn from a number of seafood processors and importers. The fishermen argued that the processors and packers had conspired to depress the prices they paid them, leading to a sharp drop in the price of salmon.

The accused companies claimed that the plunge in Alaskan salmon prices came about as a result of simple market forces, reported Reuters. Wild salmon from the region once dominated the international market, but cheaper farmed salmon from a number of different areas, including Canada and Norway has undermined Alaska’s position.

Jury foreman Mike Nourse described the evidence as insufficient: “There wasn’t even a smoldering gun. There just wasn’t anything that we could grab onto to say there was a conspiracy, or that there may have been a conspiracy.”

Several defendants had already paid $40m to settle out of court.