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Crime & Courts

Alaska fishermen get hefty fines and probation for killing sea lions

A Cordova fishing boat captain will pay a $20,000 fine and apologize in a national magazine as part of a federal sentence for killing Steller sea lions.

The federal investigation began after 15 dead sea lions were found at the mouth of the Copper River at the start of the 2015 salmon fishing season.

Cordova resident Jon Nichols, 31, will also serve three months of house arrest and five years of probation after admitting he used a shotgun to harass and shoot the federally protected marine mammals, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage. U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah M. Smith on Tuesday ordered Nichols to serve 400 hours of community service and "publish a public apology in a national magazine covering commercial
fishing."

Theodore "Teddy" Turgeon, a 21-year-old from Wasilla who worked as a deckhand on Nichols' boat, the Iron Hide, was sentenced to four years of probation, one month of home incarceration, 40 hours of community work service and a $5,000 fine, federal prosecutors said.

Both men in June pleaded guilty to one count of illegal take under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, prosecutors said. Nichols also pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of a Marine Mammal Protection Act investigation.

Nichols was accused of directing his crew, including Turgeon, to shoot at sea lions while they were fishing the Copper River in May and June of 2015. At times, Nichols would shoot the animals himself and at other times he'd drive his boat closer to them to give the others a better shot.

The men removed the shotgun from the fishing vessel after learning they were under investigation and coordinated false stories among crew members, according to prosecutors. Nichols tried to obstruct a grand jury investigation by attempting to influence crew members to provide false information, prosecutors said.

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