Fishing company pleads guilty in Alaska case

ANCHORAGE (AP) — A fishing corporation based in Washington state has been fined after pleading guilty to illegal fishing operations in Alaska waters in what authorities called a case of law misunderstanding.

Fishermen's Finest Inc. pleaded guilty in a Cordova court on Monday, according to Alaska State Troopers. Executives of the Kirkland, Wash., company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

As part of a plea agreement, the company will pay a $12,500 fine, of which $2,500 is suspended for a three-year probationary period, the Anchorage Daily News reported. The company also will pay a forfeiture of more than $10,000 for the illegal catch.

An investigation by Alaska State Wildlife Troopers found that the company violated state law by catching and retaining 11,000 pounds of Lingcod.

The company owns and operates commercial trawling vessels, and was using nets that drag just above the open bottom to catch lingcod and other species, troopers said.

Investigators said the fishing vessel US Intrepid harvested more than 56,000 pounds of lingcod in July 2010 and 2011 in the eastern Gulf of Alaska, which is state water. The company at that time was operating under federal regulations as a test rockfish fishery, said Sgt. Brent Johnson.

Most of the lingcod was released, but 11,000 pounds was retained and commercially sold, according to troopers. Such activity was legal under federal guidelines, but the state retains management control of that species, according to Johnson, the investigating officer in the case.

The case was spurred by confusion over federal and state regulations and "wasn't anything malicious," Johnson said.

"That's why there's such a low fine associated with it," he said. "It was pretty clearly a mistake, and they admitted it."

04/24/2014 - 6:19am