Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sea cucumber harvester nets $10,000 fine

The Alaska State Troopers posted this item on Friday:

Location: Prince of Wales Island
Type: Conviction
On 11/29/16 Alaska Wildlife Troopers closed out a yearlong commercial fishing case against Ronald C. Blake, 47, of Cordova, after he was convicted in the Prince of Wales court of two misdemeanor charges of failing to register for a commercial fishery and providing false information on Alaska Department of Fish and Game fish tickets. He was fined a combined total of $20,000 with $10,000 suspended. Blake, who operates the F/V Ace as a fishing vessel and a commercial tender, falsified records from the commercial sea cucumber fishery. During the sea cucumber fishery, commercial divers are allowed to harvest 2,000 pounds of product, per fisherman, during each fishing period, which typically lasts a day and a half. Most divers get the bulk of their allotment on the first day and then, after weighing the product, harvest the remaining amount during the last half day. Any amount of product that exceeds 2,000 pounds per fisherman is considered an overage and is forfeited to the state. If an overage is excessive, it may result in a criminal charge against the diver, but for minor overages there is no consequence to the fisherman. This is where the problems started for Blake. Instead of reporting the overages to Fish and Game as required, troopers were able to show that Blake was creating a "slush" fund with the excess sea cucumbers. If a fisherman who delivered product to him came up a little short, he would slide the needed amount over to that fisherman to make sure he delivered exactly 2,000 pounds. The more "legal" product that Blake purchased as a commercial tender, the more he was able to deliver to his processor and thus make more money. The F/V Ace supported three commercially permitted divers during the fishery in 2015: Blake, Makena O'Toole and Timothy Smith. When Blake or O'Toole needed a break, Smith would take their place in the water. What Alaska Wildlife Troopers noticed was that Smith always made his 2,000-pound quota but spent very little time in the actual water. The two experienced divers would easily harvest their 2,000-pound quota and then some. The additional harvest would then be placed onto Smith's quota and sold, thus ensuring that the divers off the F/V Ace always harvested and sold the maximum amount of product possible. That is called "party fishing." Because the commercial sea cucumber fishery is a competitive fishery, this type of activity is illegal. In the last two years, Alaska Wildlife Troopers have conducted seven "routine" vessel inspections on the F/V Ace, as he was the holder of seven Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission permits in 2016 and is involved in some of the most lucrative fisheries in the state to include halibut, black cod, herring and salmon. The F/V Ace, a 49-foot seiner, operates between Prince William Sound and southern Southeast most of the year either fishing or operating as a commercial tender.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Bye-bye blotter

The Unalaska Department of Public Safety has announced it is discontinuing publication of its popular police blotter "for the foreseeable future."

"However, there will be regular posts to our Facebook page that cover incidents of interest to the community," the department said.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Kodiak man accused of interfering with gear

From the Alaska State Troopers and state court records:

Location: Kodiak
Type: Interference with fishing gear
On 11/15/16 Alaska Wildlife Troopers contacted Robert Nelson Sr., 42, of Kodiak, at his residence. An ongoing investigation found Nelson had operated the F/V Katherine earlier this year and interfered with and retained commercial groundfish pots belonging to another commercial vessel. Nelson has been charged with three counts of interfering with fishing gear, a misdemeanor.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Dutch Harbor report

From the local police blotter:

Assault, Sept. 25 — Caller reported an assault that occurred aboard a vessel at sea. The Alaska State Troopers were advised.

Welfare check, Oct. 4 — A concerned mother called because she had not heard from her son who came to work at a processing plant in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. She was able to provide enough information so that a local contact number could be provided.

Assist other agency, Oct. 6 — Officer assisted a National Marine Fisheries Service investigator in conducting interviews and imaging a cell phone.

Criminal mischief, Oct. 8, 1407 hours — Caller reported damage to a vessel. The caller suspected a disgruntled former employee. The former employee denied the allegations. The responsible person for the vessel did not wish to pursue charges.

Trespass, Oct. 8, 1428 hours — Officers assisted in issuing a trespass order to a disgruntled former employee who was suspected of vandalizing a vessel.

Environmental, Oct. 10 — Caller reported that several eagles were rifling through trash bags in the back of a pickup truck, making quite the mess. The truck's owner was contacted and advised.

Assist other agency, Oct. 18 — Officers assisted several IRS agents in serving a search warrant after receiving a call from the suspect the warrant was being served upon. The suspect did not believe the IRS agents were actually federal agents and wanted the police to make them go away. It was explained to the suspect that the agents were actual agents and that the warrant was valid.

Animal, Oct. 19, 1051 hours — Caller reported two eagles arguing over a seagull carcass. The caller stated the stench from the carrion was wafting through the open bay doors. The eagles were persuaded to move their brunch to a location farther from the building.

Suspicious activity, Oct. 22 — Caller reported a possible mutiny aboard a fishing vessel as the crew was not listening to the captain and refused to get out of bed. The caller called back and reported that everything was fine now and the crew was working. An officer responded and confirmed that there were no mutinous scurvy dogs upon the vessel.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sitka salmon troller hit with multiple charges

The Alaska State Troopers today released the following:

Location: Sitka
Type: Undersized king salmon
On 8/30/16 Alaska Wildlife Troopers responded to a report of undersized king salmon on a commercial power troll vessel, the F/V Seanna, at a local processor. Investigation revealed permit holder and operator Cleveland Eells, 26, of Sitka, had taken five undersized king salmon, which an Alaska Department of Fish and Game representative identified during an offload as undersized. Eells removed the fish from the ADF&G representative's possession before any biological samples (heads) could be retained and dumped the fish, causing them to be wasted. Troopers later contacted Eells and additional undersized king salmon were located onboard which had been concealed at the end of a separate offload. Eells was charged by Alaska Wildlife Troopers and the Sitka District Attorney's Office with two counts of possessing undersized king salmon, failing to relinquish heads of marked king salmon, waste of salmon and unlawful possession. He was arraigned on 9/20/16 on the misdemeanor charges. Investigation continues into further charges.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Troopers cite sea cucumber divers

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Ketchikan
Type: Commercial fish closed waters
On 10/4/16 Alaska Wildlife Troopers cited Darren Swedberg, 45, of Craig, for commercial diving for sea cucumbers in closed waters. Swedberg was observed diving aboard the F/V Pengertre in a closed area of Tongass Narrows. Investigation revealed Swedberg was in possession of 947 pounds of sea cucumbers at the time of the violation. The state has seized proceeds of $3,788 from the sea cucumbers found aboard the vessel.

Location: Juneau
Type: Commercial fish closed period
On 10/3/16 Alaska Wildlife Troopers onboard the P/V Sentry contacted Paul Weltzin, 53, of Juneau, permit holder and diver aboard the F/V Lite Weight, as he was commercial fishing for sea cucumbers near Point Couverden. Investigation revealed Weltzin was still diving after the fishery had closed. Further investigation revealed that a deckhand failed to possess his crewmember license as required. Weltzin was cited for commercial sea cucumber fishing during a closed period.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Dutch Harbor report

From the local police blotter:

Drunk disturbance, Aug. 21 — The captain from a fishing vessel requested assistance with a drunk and unruly crewman. The crewman refused to stay in his stateroom and was making a general nuisance of himself. Although he was annoying, he had not as yet violated any criminal statutes. Prior to officer's arrival, the individual fled the area. Officers were unsuccessful in finding him. The captain advised he would call if he needed further assistance.

Welfare check, Aug. 26 — Caller reported seeing a flare in the area of Hog Island. A check of vessels in the area did not disclose any in need of emergency assistance. It was later discovered that the flare had been set off by individuals on the beach. The individuals were contacted and reminded that emergency flares were for emergencies only.

Alcohol, Sept. 6 — Officers responded to a report of an individual who was practicing his kung fu in the middle of the roadway. Officers found him wallowing in the mud on the side of the roadway. The individual was taken into protective custody and released to a sober adult.

Death investigation, Sept. 12 — Officer initiated a death investigation into the events surrounding the discovery of a body in a creek.

Civil, Sept. 13 — Caller wanted to pursue charges against her boyfriend for getting fired before he could repay the money he owed her. The caller was advised the matter was not criminal in nature.

Assault, Sept. 16 — Dipsomaniacal caller reported being assaulted. The caller provided numerous accounts of an alleged assault. Each account stretched the bounds of believability. None of the accounts were supported by physical, testimonial or empirical evidence.

Outreach, Sept. 17 — Fire officer assisted in creating a mud pit for a local "Mud Run."

Theft, Sept. 18 — A taxi driver requested assistance with a fare who was unable to pay his fare. The officer was able to negotiate a fair fare for the fare which was paid for by the fare's friend.

Fire response, Sept. 19 — Fire officers responded to an explosion at a local fish processing plant.

Suspicious activity, Sept. 21 — Caller reported that his employee found a human jaw bone while beachcombing. The bone appeared to be archaeological in nature. It was packaged and sent to the state crime lab for confirmation.

Suspicious person, Sept. 22 — Complainant wanted to advise police that the individual he had just fired was a "Bad Man."

Suspicious person, Sept. 23 — Officers contacted an individual under the South Channel Bridge. The individual was found to be fishing for Dungeness crab from shore, without success.