Clam diggers killed in rough seas off Alaska may not have been properly licensed, records show

ANCHORAGE — The five Alaska clam diggers who died when their overloaded 22-foot skiff was swamped by rough seas and strong winds in Cook Inlet may not have been properly licensed, the Anchorage Daily News reported in Saturday’s newspaper.

Pacific Seafood Group said in a prepared statement this week the workers held licenses and permits from the state Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Fish and Game. The company said the men worked as independent contractors.

However, the state Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission website lists only 25 people with statewide commercial permits for harvesting razor clams with shovels. None of the names on the list match the names provided Friday by Alaska State Troopers, although two have similar spellings.

The five clam diggers were found dead in Cook Inlet on Tuesday.

One man — 42-year-old Noel Garcia of Aberdeen, Wash. — survived because he decided to walk from their harvesting spot to their camp. When Garcia reached the camp and noticed his co-workers had not arrived, he and others looked for them, soon finding one of the bodies.

The dead were identified as 42-year-old Roberto Ramirez, whose hometown hasn’t been determined; 34-year-old Jose A. Sandoval of Bakersfield, Calif.; 36-year-old Avelino Garcia of Oregon; 24-year-old Jose Revera of Los Angeles; and 31-year-old Ramon Valdiva of Oregon.

The men were part of a group that had spent much of the day Tuesday digging for razor clams between Crescent River and Polly Creek on the west side of Cook Inlet, troopers said.

The men worked on contract for Pacific Alaska Shellfish, which is owned by Oregon-based Pacific Seafood Group.

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