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Alaska Glacier Seafoods fined for failure to submit fish tickets on time

Posted: August 2, 2012 - 11:08pm
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Alaska Glacier Seafoods processing plant photographed on Thursday.   Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Alaska Glacier Seafoods processing plant photographed on Thursday.

Alaska Glacier Seafoods Inc. in Juneau was fined $500 with $250 suspended for failure to submit fish tickets to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game in a timely fashion.

The president of the family-owned seafood processor and distributor Michael Erickson pleaded ‘no contest’ to the non-criminal, strict liability violation Thursday in Juneau District Court before Judge Keith Levy.

Levy imposed the fine in accordance with an agreement reached with District Attorney David Brower.

Levy also placed Erickson on probation for one year with the condition that he not violate any Fish & Game laws.

Erickson, 58, as the president and registered agent of the company, was ticketed by the Alaska Wildlife Troopers in Juneau on Sept. 30, 2011, for failure to submit fish tickets to the department within seven days after delivery. The maximum fine for that offense is $3,000.

Alaska Wildlife Trooper Matthew Dobson said in an interview Thursday that it wasn’t just one ticket that got away from the company. It was about 139, he said.

Fish & Game gave the company a verbal warning, Dobson said, which is normal when a ticket is a day or two late or when information is missing.

“But when it becomes excessive, then Fish & Game then turns it over to us, and essentially our policy is if you’re late to the point where Fish & Game has to contact us, then it’s beyond a verbal warning type of thing,” Dobson said.

Dobson described the tickets as a resource management tool Fish & Game needs to calculate quotas and harvesting numbers. The tickets provide information necessary to determine whether to shorten a fishing season, or to call for an emergency opener or closure.

A phone call to Erickon’s office went unreturned Thursday afternoon, and he declined to make a statement before the court. By pleading ‘no contest’ he didn’t make any admissions but just chose not to fight the charges against him.

The agreement reached with prosecutors dismissed the citation against Erickson himself and kept the citation against the company.

Erickson’s attorney Kirstin Swanson told the judge that the late fish tickets were a result of an administrative oversight. A new employee unaware of the rules had waited for two separate batches of the tickets to come in and sent them all off at once instead of sending them off as they came in, she said.

Erickson previously told the Empire that his company deals with tens of thousands of fish tickets annually. The company, which has been in business since 1996, has never been cited before.

Swanson emphasized that Erickson has a good professional relationship with Fish & Game and that he was shocked to find out he was cited.

“He doesn’t think of himself as a criminal,” Swanson laughed.

His attorney added that Erickson was in fact “sort of offended” that Troopers didn’t call him before citing him, and that he didn’t understand why it had to go this route.

Swanson noted that her client had originally wanted to go to trial to flesh out some of the issues in the system of transferring the fish tickets, which she described as inconsistent and chaotic. But ultimately she said her client wanted to resolve the case and move forward.

The judge told Erickson he believed he didn’t do anything wrong intentionally. If there’s one thing Erickson should be criticized for, Levy said, is not training new employees on the rules.

Erickson told the Empire in its previous interview their office will now have a designated employee in charge of transferring fish tickets to Fish & Game.

Levy dismissed the argument, though, that because Erickson has a good professional relationship with Fish & Game, they should have called (which Dobson said they did).

“I don’t see that they should treat you any differently,” Levy said.

Levy likened the scenario to the district attorney and the police. Even though they have a good working relationship, Brower should be ticketed if he’s pulled over for speeding, Levy said.

But the most important thing, Levy noted, was the preservation of Alaska’s resources.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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