Coast Guard, Alaska Wildlife Troopers team up to enforce maritime law near Kodiak, Alaska

A boarding team from the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR climbs aboard the cutter during a maritime law enforcement patrol near Kodiak, Alaska, July 6, 2013.  The SPAR is a 225-foot ocean going buoy tender homeported in Kodiak that conducts multiple missions including law enforcement, search and rescue and aids to navigation.  U.S. Coast Guard photo provided by USCGC SPAR.

A boarding team from the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR climbs aboard the cutter during a maritime law enforcement patrol near Kodiak, Alaska, July 6, 2013. The SPAR is a 225-foot ocean going buoy tender homeported in Kodiak that conducts multiple missions including law enforcement, search and rescue and aids to navigation. U.S. Coast Guard photo provided by USCGC SPAR.

There are many stakeholders in keeping Alaska’s fisheries sustainable, and key among them in enforcing regulations is the United States Coast Guard. Coast Guard boarding teams deployed from Cutters and Small Boat Stations ensure compliance with Federal laws throughout Alaska, from the far reaches of the Arctic to the inshore waters of the Southeast.

Coast Guard law enforcement teams are trained in federal fisheries laws and inspect vessels to ensure compliance with fishing seasons, permit requirements, gear and catch restrictions, and landing quotas. While conducting this important maritime law enforcement mission in Chiniak and Marmot Bays near Kodiak, a boarding team from the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR recently discovered a pair of lingcod peeking out from under a tarp on the back deck of a vessel the team was inspecting.

“The master told the boarding team that the fish were given to him by the crew of another fishing vessel to eat that night,” said Lt. j.g. Myles McCarthy, operations officer aboard the SPAR. “While lingcod are a state-managed species, it raised our suspicions prompting us to follow up with the Troopers.”

McCarthy contacted Alaska Wildlife Trooper Francis Fay who took the SPAR’s report and contacted the vessel’s master and the skipper of the boat he had claimed gave him the cod. When questioned by Fay, both ships’ masters gave a different account of how the lingcod got aboard the boat but neither fish story could conceal the fact that the cod were illegally caught.

“Permit or not, subsistence fishing for lingcod has the same season as commercial and sport fishing for lingcod and it was clear the fish were caught during a closed season,” said Fay. “Weighing the facts and the evidence, I felt charging the vessel’s master with two misdemeanor counts of subsistence take of lingcod in a closed season to be the correct action to take.”

This is just one account of the SPAR’s fisheries enforcement mission and only one example of the teamwork between the Coast Guard and Alaska’s law enforcement professionals. This partnership between the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Coast Guard and the Troopers is what it takes to keep the playing field level and ensure the sustainability of the waters surrounding Kodiak.

“At the end of the day, the fish were onboard the vessel and the ship’s master was held accountable,” said McCarthy. “We greatly appreciate our partnership with the Alaska Wildlife Troopers and look forward to working with them in the future.”

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