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Fuglvog testimony helps convict fellow Alaska fish pirate

Craig Medred
Aaron Jansen illustration

Now infamous Alaska fish pirate Arne Fuglvog -- a one-time aide to Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and esteemed member of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council "family" -- has taken a commercial fishing crony down with him, according to the office of the U.S. Attorney for Alaska.

On Friday, U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler was trumpeting the news that halibut longliner Freddie Joe Hankins from Oregon was convicted on Thursday in Anchorage federal court on two counts of falsely reporting where he was catching his halibut. Accurate information on where fish are caught is considered vital to conservation of a stock now facing a serious decline.

The 47-year-old Hankins, according to a press release, was fishing where the fishing was best, then reporting he'd caught his halibut elsewhere.

"Specifically, in 2007, Hankins caught halibut in an area where he was not authorized to fish -- he did not have ‘quota’ -- and falsely reported that he caught the halibut in a regulatory area where he did have quota," the press release said. "Arne Fuglvog, former fisheries aide to Lisa Murkowski, currently serving time for his fisheries convictions, testified that he had fished with Hankins, and it was Hankins’ practice to falsely report where he fished for IFQ halibut because the fishing was better in the regulatory area where Hankins did not have quota."

The press release said other witnesses appeared at trial to testify as to how the Cove, Ore.-based Hankins also concealed over harvests of rockfish as well, but a jury refused to convict him on two charges of falsely reporting those catches. Fisheries abuses are easy in the Alaska commercial longline fleet because the boats often fish far offshore out of sight of witnesses, and they carry no fisheries observers or tracking devices.

Alaska commercial fishermen have fought the idea of satellite tracking monitors that would have easily caught the likes of Fuglvog and Hankins breaking the law.

The conviction of Fuglovg, who had positioned himself as a public advocate for conservation while secretly raping the resource, opened a whole new window on how the fishing business off Alaska is prosecuted. It is unclear as to whether Fuglvog and now Hankins will deliver yet more violators. The U.S. Attorney's Office said Hankins faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both, but he is unlikely to get that.

Fuglvog, who was born and reared in Petersburg and has deep ties to all sorts of Alaska commercial fishing interests, got off with 10 months.