ANCHORAGE – A Kodiak, Alaska, man was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Joshua M. Kindred to six months in federal prison, a $1,000,000 fine, 126 days in a halfway house and 80 hours of community service. He must also make a public service announcement acknowledging his wrongdoing for knowingly submitting false records on halibut and sablefish.
According to court documents, James Aaron Stevens, 47, an experienced commercial fisherman, vessel owner and captain, pled guilty in November 2020 to falsely labeling fish in violation of the Lacey Act.
Stevens, the owner and operator of F/V Alaskan Star and F/V Southern Seas, falsely reported where he harvested 903,208 pounds of individual fishing quota (IFQ) halibut and sablefish. Stevens knowingly falsified numerous documents – IFQ landing reports, Alaska Department of Fish and Game fish tickets and fishing logbooks – to show that he harvested fish in locations and regulatory areas where he did not fish and omitted areas where he actually fished. Stevens committed this offense over the course of 26 fishing trips spanning four IFQ fishing seasons (2014-2017). Taken together, the halibut and sablefish that Stevens falsely reported had an approximate dock value of $4,522,210 and market value of $13,566,630. Stevens sold the falsely labeled fish caught during these trips, which were, or were intended to be, transported in interstate and foreign commerce.
“Fishing is at the heart of Alaska and we must all strive to protect this important resource. Criminals who violate the Lacy Act for their own personal gain harm both the resource itself and those who either depend on it for their livelihood or their subsistence lifestyle,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Wilson, District of Alaska. “Our office will continue to aggressively prosecute individuals who engage in falsifying fishery records.”
“Alaska is known for its world-class, sustainable fisheries based on science-based management and honest fishermen following the rules,” said Will Ellis, Assistant Director of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, Alaska Division. “This sentencing should serve as a reminder that there are serious consequences for those who break the rules, and that NOAA OLE is committed to holding those who cheat the system accountable.”
NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement conducted the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Alexander and Andrea Hattan, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, NOAA Office of General Counsel Enforcement Section, prosecuted this case.