2 Southeast residents charged with violating Marine Mammal Protection Act

Two Southeast and Southcentral Alaska residents have been charged with illegally transporting, possessing and selling marine animals.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska said in a release that Raymond P. Chatham, 65, of Edna Bay, and Joshua Wodyga, 31, of Ketchikan, and the two Southcentral residents, John K. Boone, 55, of Valdez, and David K. Johnson, 53, of Anchorage, were all charged with crimes under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Chatham was charged with illegally transporting 87 dead sea otters and illegal possession of marine mammal parts — in this case, 14 sea otter skulls arising from other activities in 2008.

Wodyga was charged with one count of illegally selling a sea otter hide.

In other filings, Boone was charged with illegally selling two sea otter hides, while Johnson was charged with one illegal sale of a sea otter hide and one count of illegally selling an unhandicrafted walrus tusk. Those charges also arose from activities undertaken in 2008, the release states.

According the release, the charges were a result of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation dubbed “Operation Enhydra.” Since the investigation, five individuals have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced for the illegal take and sale of sea otters, sea otter parts, Steller’s sea lion parts and spotted seal skin parts being sold for commercial gain.

Also assisting in the investigation were Alaska Wildlife Troopers, NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement, U.S. Forest Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Marshal’s Service, the state of Alaska Attorney General’s Office and the Alaska Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Enforcement.

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