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.