Seattle company penalized $500,000 for dumping halibut

Posted: Sunday, January 23, 2005

ANCHORAGE - A Seattle-based commercial fishing company was ordered to pay $500,000 in penalties after pleading guilty to illegally disposing of halibut while catching other types of fish off Alaska.

The action in U.S. District Court in Anchorage follows jail terms issued in November to Paul Ison and Daniel Skauge, the captain and first mate of the fishing vessel Unimak.

The operator of the boat, Unimak Fisheries of Seattle, entered a guilty plea Jan. 14, with partner Michael Zubko representing the company in the courtroom, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office in Anchorage.

Magistrate Judge Harry Branson, according to terms of a plea agreement, fined the company $300,000 and also ordered it to pay $200,000 as restitution to the International Pacific Halibut Commission, a Seattle-based body that helps research and manage halibut fisheries along the U.S. and Canadian coasts.

Branson banned the Unimak from fishing for 14 days this year and put the company on probation for 18 months. He also required the company to hire an expert to "examine and correct policies which may have led to the criminal conduct," the U.S. attorney's office said.

Prosecutors said the crew of the 185-foot Unimak, while netting sole and other types of fish during 2000 in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, tried to hide accidental catches of halibut from a federal fisheries observer aboard the boat to log the catch.

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