Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fishermen’s Finest Pleads Guilty to Illegal Fishing

A Kirkland, Washington based corporation that operates two commercial trawling vessels in Alaska waters has pleaded guilty in court in Cordova, Alaska, to illegal fishing with non-pelagic trawl gear in state waters closed to trawl gear use.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers’ investigations unit said their investigation revealed that in July of 2010 and again in July of 2011, the F/V US Intrepid, owned by Fishermen’s Finest LLC, harvested a total of over 56,000 pounds of lingcod by catch in waters of the Eastern Gulf of Alaska using non-pelagic trawl gear during a federal fishery.

While a majority of the lingcod was released, 11,000 pounds were retained and sold commercially, running the corporation afoul with state law, troopers said.

As part of a plea agreement with the state of Alaska reached on April 21, Fishermen’s Finest was sentenced to pay a fine of $12,500, and an additional $2,500 suspended with a probationary period of three years.  The company was also ordered to forfeit proceeds from the sale of the illegal catch in the amount of $10,326, troopers said.

“In just one week, this one vessel illegally harvested approximately 70 percent of the entire lingcod quota for the Super Exclusive Icy Bay Subdistrict Lingcod fishery,” said Alaska Wildlife Troopers Sgt. Brent Johnson. “This case highlights the importance of Wildlife Investigations Unit as it was specifically created to investigate these types of high value cases involving commercial users of Alaska’s fish and wildlife resources.”

Fishermen’s Finest, an independent American fishing company, manages two catcher/processor vessels in the bottomfish fisheries of the North Pacific and Bering Sea, the 185-foot F/V U.S. Intrepid, with 44 crew, and the 160-foot F/V American #1, with a crew of 39 workers.

Lingcod are a fish of the greenling family unique to the west coast of north America, from the Shumagin Islands in the Gulf of Alaska to Baja California, Mexico. Lingcod is well known for its cod-like white, flaky flesh.

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