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Fuglvog pleads guilty to falsifying catch records

Posted: August 11, 2011 - 9:45pm

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s former top fisheries aide Arne Fuglvog, 47, remains free without bail after pleading guilty in Anchorage Federal Court on Thursday to a Lacey Act violation. It was disclosed he is working with prosecutors on a sealed plea addendum.

U.S. District Court Judge Russel Holland said Thursday there was a sealed addendum to the plea deal between federal prosecutors and Fuglvog. That addendum was confirmed by Fuglvog to have been signed, and Holland stated that if Fuglvog provides the government with some information then it holds out the possibility of a sentence reduction. The plea addendum was filed Aug 1 and sealed by the judge. Fuglvog has aggreed to a sentence of 10 months in prison and fines of $150,000.

Fuglvog is free without bail on the recommendation of federal prosecutors pending sentencing on Nov. 18.

In court, Steward had stated to Judge Holland that Fuglvog has been responsive to government requests and the government didn’t foresee having difficulties.

Fuglvog was allowed to keep his passport so that he could go on what his lawyer called a “long-planned trip to Canada” for 10 days later this month.

Various comments made on major newspaper websites of the Fuglvog case have sometimes been misguided and unfactual.

“You realize you shouldn’t even be reading that crap,” longtime Petersburg commercial fisherman Eric Rosvold said. “I even saw my name mentioned on one in the Anchorage paper. They were talking about all those guys from Petersburg, all those crooks, look at all those new boats they have, how else could they have gotten them unless by cheating.”

Rosvold is one of many of Petersburg’s born and raised fishermen who have put in the long hours and sacrifices to succeed honestly in the commercial fishing trade. One only has to look at his hand, with it’s missing three fingers from a fishing accident, or the multiple divorces, or the various other aches and pains that accompany a body that knew enough about the sciences of fisheries to invest and participate in a variety of seafood endeavors.

“Petersburg fishermen have had that reputation because we were successful,” Rosvold said. “But we worked hard. Geez, I think I went through two wives, or was it three, I don’t remember anymore. Working my butt off and borrowing as much money I could every year that I could. It is no secret wand.”

On April 8, Fuglvog admitted to National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) enforcement officers that he violated the Lacey Act by knowingly falsifying his catch records of black cod Individual Fishing Quota during the 2005 season. Fuglvog was allowed to catch 33,000 pounds of black cod in the Western Yakutat area and instead landed 63,000 and attributed half of it to the Central Gulf.

Fuglvog also agreed to write an apology letter in the National Fisherman Magazine, the same magazine that celebrated his fishing accomplishments.

Even in sentencing, Fuglvog will benefit the fisheries as $100,000 of his fine goes to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for the purpose of enhancing fisheries habitat in the coastal areas of the Gulf of Alaska — the same area Fuglvog’s 30,000 extra pounds should have been caught in.

The reality of Fuglvog’s offense, and it is a federal offense, is that he didn’t make any money on it.

“It didn’t get him any further ahead in life,” a fisherman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said. “It didn’t create any more wealth for Arne. That was poundage he would have caught a week later in the correct area. All it did was get his crew home to port sooner than if they had fished out in the Gulf.”

Fishermen often turn left in the Yakutat area to head out to the Central Gulf to fish, if the weather is bad it makes the trip a long “tough buck.”

Black cod fishermen and fisheries scientists know that sablefish are continually moving from Western Alaska to Eastern Alaska, they are not bottomed to a localized area, thus making depletion unlikely.

Fuglvog, his attorney Jeff Feldman, and prosecuting attorney Andrea Steward did not return phone calls.

Added Rosvold, “It doesn’t mean he should have done it. I am still surprised that he did. I can maybe see it happening on one trip, but it bothers me that it might have been multiple times. Arne was someone we all looked up to.”

In the days when IFQ’s resulted in many crewmen losing jobs, old timers like Fuglvog’s father kept crews employed. Fuglvog was nearer to being a businessman with fishing background and changed the working relationship on the Kamilar, much to the crew’s annoyance.

The infraction didn’t come to light until Fuglvog applied to another federal office. Computers and logbooks were seized off the vessel Kamilar for investigation and crew were interviewed multiple times over a period of two years.

Fuglvog helped regulate fishing off Alaska as a member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council during his illegal catch.

Salmon seiner fishermen in Southeast Alaska oftentimes fish multiple districts in a two-day opening, and most do not state on their deliveries that certain percentages are from one area or the other. The federal government classifies that as a violation of the Lacey Act.

“Fishermen are supposed to report the percentage of catch that is caught in each of the regulatory harvest areas that they fish in,” a National Marine Fisheries Enforcement Officer stated.

Fuglvog was Murkowski’s fisheries adviser from 2006 until July 31, 2011 when he resigned the day before being formally charged and his plea agreement went public.

Murkowski stated that Fuglvog, despite having signed the plea agreement on April 8, did not tell her about it until June 29.

• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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