Former fisheries official gets prison for fishing violations

Mary Pemberton
Arne Fuglvog, former fisheries aide for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, leaves federal court Thursday morning, Aug. 11, 2011, in Anchorage. ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News

A former aide to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski who had worked as a commercial fisherman while sitting on the council that regulates fishing off Alaska's coastline was sentenced Tuesday to five months in prison for falsifying his own fishing reports.

U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland said the real crime that Arne Fuglvog, 48, committed was not monetary but to the reputation of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, whose primary responsibility is the management of groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands and the Bering Sea. Fuglvog also was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine and provide the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation $100,000 to improve fish habitat in the Gulf of Alaska, where he had a commercial fishing operation.

Fuglvog choked up several times while reading a statement before being sentenced in Anchorage. In it he expressed remorse for his actions and said he had no excuse for violating regulations. He said he had deluded himself into thinking he could do wrong in one part of his life while not inflicting injury elsewhere.

"I have learned there are no shortcuts," he said. "I hurt a lot of people."

Fuglvog also agreed to make an announcement in National Fisherman magazine acknowledging his wrongdoing.

From 2001 to 2006, Fuglvog participated in a "consistent practice" of violating regulations, Holland said. After leaving the council in 2006, Fuglvog took a position in Murkowski's Washington office, where he worked mostly on fisheries issues.

According to prosecutors, Fuglvog falsified records to cover up earning an extra $100,000 from commercial fishing in the Gulf of Alaska. He pleaded guilty in federal court in Anchorage last August to one count of violating the Lacey Act for falsely reporting where he caught sablefish that were intended for interstate commerce.

Fuglvog in April signed the plea deal, which was made public in August when the agreement was filed the day after he resigned from Murkowski's staff. According to the agreement, Fuglvog had a permit to harvest about 30,000 pounds of sablefish -- considered a delicacy in many countries -- from the western Yakutat area in 2005.

He actually caught about 63,000 pounds of fish in the area that year and then falsified records indicating he caught the extra 33,000 pounds of fish in the Central Gulf area, according to the court document.

Federal prosecutors say an investigation by law enforcement officers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration led to an indictment in the case.

A plea agreement initially called for Fuglvog to serve 10 months in prison, but the government last week recommended cutting that time in half. Fuglvog, who has no prior criminal record, is helping prosecutors in another case.

He could have been sentenced to one year in prison, $100,000 fine and one year of supervised release.

Associated Press