Lu DochtormannBy Ludger Dochtermann, F/V North Point, F/V Stormbird; Kodiak, Alaska

Saturday, September 5, 2015, Deckboss blogspot news [] from the Alaska State Troopers stated, “State secures convictions against three trawlers, wins forfeiture of Pacific cod worth $106,326” — in a set of cases involving commercial fishing in closed waters as reported on February 24, 2015.  The violations apparently occurred in the closed waters of Kagalaska Strait, east of Adak Island in the western Aleutians.

The combined total of fines levied was, disgracefully, a mere $12,000.

The confiscated illegal catch totaled 393,791 pounds of cod, its forfeiture value computed at a mere 27 cents per raw catch pound of Pacific cod.  That’s severely undervalued and a far cry short of the sales values those companies would have received.  In comparison, East Coast, ex-vessel Atlantic cod prices are currently considered low at $1.50.

What’s the true value of the confiscated catch, from ocean to consumers?

Oddly enough, the greater volumes of criminal catches were aboard the smallest two of the three vessels: 248,035 on the 102-foot Muir Milach, owned by Aleutian Spray Reverse LLC, and 138,767 pounds on the 88-foot Aleutian Challenger a catcher vessel to mothership operations, while the 296-foot, 4,500 hp stern trawler-processor Katie Ann of the American Seafoods Company trawler processor fleet captured only 6,989 pounds — but they paid half of the total fines.

Just last year, I won a petition to the Alaska Board of Fish in a Kodiak meeting.  Their decision finally closed crucial state waters, after years of trawler abusive fishing in vital crab spawning bays of southwest Kodiak Island.  Now the critical habitat in all of the island’s bays are closed.

You can bet your boat that the entire bottom dragging trawl fleet knew of the closures within hours.  They are treading carefully, and it appears no more mud and dead crab shells churn in those bays.  Restocking crab species might someday have a survivable chance.

So, how were long-closed waters of Kagalaska Strait not regulations fully aware to the captains involved?  Obviously, they ‘willfully and knowingly’ violated the fisheries law.  Why was the judge blind to their ill intent and immoral profit motives?

The operator of the worst offending vessel in these cases happened to be a defendant in many legal cases across Alaska’s coast over decades.  We do not know the details or court results.  But doesn’t his behavior involving the quarter-million pound violation alone warrant suspension of his rights to operate a vessel in the cod fisheries, at the least?  The Unalaska resident magistrate should not have been ignorant to the fact that the cod quota system put many good skippers out of work.  Many are available and willing to conduct fishing legally, outside known closed-waters.

Unbelievably, there’s not one mention of the court taking away for at least one year the Western Aleutian Islands cod fishing rights for each vessel in the top two cases, when it is more than warranted.  How else will these costly cases serve as a deterrent to other vessel owners and their operators, instead of motivate more cheating?  How does $12,000 cover the state’s costs in this matter?  Were they even charged court costs?

These cases were before the Dutch Harbor based state’s enforcement vessel Stimson was moved last month to Kodiak to the docks in Dog Bay, right where the trawlers berth.  Along with the Wolstadt, it sits at our docks due to budgetary shortages and appears to seldom if ever look for more violators.  Will other trawlers simply risk bad behavior too, knowing the stand-down status of enforcers who are also now far from Dutch Harbor?

What will happen once Kodiak trawlers fathom how those enforcement stalls are never vacant? Will our bays once again be raided, too?  We hope Alaskan legislators are reading, and that the promised $500,000 savings from the move will be budgeted for fuel and other costs for the Wolstadt and Stimson to go to sea.

Did the illegal pounds count against any quotas or catch limits for the vessels involved, so that they could not merely go back out and replace their forfeited cod with fresh catch?

These cases are like the old saying “In real estate, if you are going into debt with your bankers, then go big.  Then they will have an investment in keeping you in business even if you break the worst laws, even if you should really be down on your knees before the bankruptcy judges.”  These defendants must have had drama tears in their eyes before the judge.

Now, all fishermen I’ve talked to about it believe that the Unalaska District Court (port of Dutch Harbor) magistrate Jane Pearson eagerly fell on a sympathy sword.  After living in Unalaska for a decade.  If so, then “For shame!”

Is there any chance that when the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and NMFS Office of Law Enforcement become aware of these cases, that these violations in the state ‘parallel waters’ might also be worthy of revoking federal quota rights for at least the two worst offenders?  One should hope so.

Not likely say most.  Long-time former Advisory Panel member Dave Fraser was formerly captain of the Muir Milach, and the vessel currently lists Craig Cross —a NPFMC voting member from Washington State— as a contact person for Aleutian Spray Fisheries.  At least Fraser once “complained that we were giving the fishery back to the Japanese after the effort to Americanize it.”  American Seafoods has long-term representation in the NPFMC family, resembling a reserved seat on the advisory panel.  Point is, these guys run amongst the power elite in Alaskan fisheries.

But hey, I’m a 73-year-old captain who still fishes legal; and have long known how it things go given fish politics that trounce rule of law.  Special treatment was likely afforded to powerful interests, and they’ve won another victory by crying in court and laughing in the brew house afterwards, knowing they are once again ‘the untouchables.’

The courts never do anything to the personless activities of large corporations. The trawler-catchers and processors know that regular ‘powerless’ fishermen can’t do a thing about it, as we never wake up altogether and organize against the corruption of justice.

They know we’ll rant like hell and probably drink ourselves mad, then get up the next day and pick up where we left off, unprepared to stop this before the last fish is gone.  But that’s the trawlers’ plan: to be reeling the last fish aboard, years from now, just as we’ve finally had enough and woke up together.  It will be too late: for us and the fish.

Then Alaska’s trawlers will have some vote-starved congressional powerhouses cry tragedy for their sake, and get more government handouts in disaster relief funds for themselves – fleecing the taxpayers once again.

Meanwhile, we can all go back to believing that these vessels’ owners and captains didn’t know they were fishing in illegal waters.  Untouchables.  It’s time that changes.

Ludger Dochtermann, F/V Stormbird & F/V North Point

P.O. Box 714; Kodiak, Alaska 99615  Tel: 907.486.5450


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Saturday, September 5, 2015

State secures convictions against three trawlers, wins forfeiture of Pacific cod worth $106,326

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Kagalaska Strait

Type: Commercial fish closed waters

On 2/24/15 Dutch Harbor Wildlife Troopers received information regarding three commercial trawl vessels that had fished within closed waters between 175 and 178 degrees W longitude in the Aleutian Islands area. The three vessels were the 296-foot Katie Ann operated by Daniel Skauge, of Oregon; the 102-foot Muir Milach operated by David Willmore, of Washington; and the 88-foot Aleutian Challenger operated by Michael Murdock, of Washington. Investigation revealed the three vessels made multiple tows with their trawls through state waters in violation of state regulations.

A non-pelagic trawl used to harvest Pacific cod during the state waters “A” season may not be more than 60 feet in overall length. Skauge pled guilty to three counts of commercial fishing in closed waters, with a $6,000 fine and forfeiture of 6,989 pounds of cod. Willmore pled guilty to one count of commercial fishing in closed waters, with a $3,000 fine and forfeiture of 248,035 pounds of cod. Murdock pled guilty to one count of commercial fishing in closed waters, with a $3,000 fine and forfeiture of 138,767 pounds of cod. The approximate value of cod forfeited to the state was $106,326.


Editor’s note: All three defendants entered their pleas on Aug. 25 in Unalaska District Court.





Unalaska District Court – Customer Service (907) 581-1379. Was it magistrate Jane Pearson? Yes

Dutch Harbor State Troopers 581-1432; 486-4762 Kodiak – Sgt. Morisett, Rob.

TC: 9/8/15 – Morisett in out of the office until Sept. 18.

F/V ALASKA CHALLENGER – operated by:

Murdock, Michael Dean — Case No. 3UN-15-00115CR

Criminal District Court Misdemeanor (3UN) File date: 6/17/2015

M/V KATIE ANN – American Seafoods Company – operated by:

Skauge, Daniel Allen – Case No. 3UN-15-00116CR

Criminal District Court Misdemeanor (3UN) File date: 6/17/2015

F/V MUIR MILAC operated by:

Willmore, David Wayne — Case No. 3UN-15-00117CR

Criminal District Court Misdemeanor (3UN) File date: 6/17/2015

Note: there are six cases on file for Willmore.

Case Number Case Type File Date Party/Company Party Type Date of Birth Case Status
1KE-94-01119CR Crim Dist Ct Misd (1KE) 08/16/1994 Willmore, David W Defendant 06/01/1959 Closed
3AN-85-05828CR Crim Dist Ct Misd (3AN) 01/01/1985 Willmore, David W Defendant Closed
3SW-91-00346CR Crim Dist Ct Misd (3SW) 09/26/1991 Willmore, David W Defendant 06/01/1959 Closed
3UN-93-U002802 Minor Offenses (3UN) 10/19/1993 Willmore, David W Defendant 06/01/1959 Closed
3UN-97-00262CR Crim Dist Ct Misd (3UN) 10/09/1997 Willmore, David W Defendant 06/01/1959 Closed
3UN-15-00117CR Crim Dist Ct Misd (3UN) 06/17/2015 Willmore, David Wayne Defendant 06/01/1959 Closed