Alaska senator's aide pleads to fishing violations

AP News
Posted: Aug 02, 2011 8:32 PM
Alaska senator's aide pleads to fishing violations

A fisheries aide to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has acknowledged falsifying records that netted him an extra $100,000 while commercial fishing in southeast Alaska in 2005.

Arne Fuglvog admitted in a plea deal to one count of violating the Lacey Act for falsely reporting where he caught sablefish.

He resigned from Murkowski's staff Sunday.

Fuglvog signed the plea agreement with the federal government April 8, but it was only made public Monday in U.S. District Court records, as first reported by the Alaska Dispatch.

According to the deal, Fuglvog had a permit to harvest about 30,000 pounds of sablefish _ a mild-flavored fish considered a delicacy in many countries _ from the western Yakatat area in southeast Alaska in 2005.

However, officials say he actually caught about 63,000 pounds of fish in the area and then falsified records indicating he caught the extra 33,000 pounds of fish in the "Central Gulf." The extra fish netted him about $100,000.

If a judge accepts the plea deal next week, Fuglvog will likely be sentenced to 10 months in a federal prison, fined $50,000 and have to donate $100,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to enhance fisheries habitat in the coastal areas of the Gulf of Alaska, according to the plea agreement.

Fuglvog, 47, went to work as an aide in Murkowski's Washington, D.C., office five years ago and largely worked on fisheries issues.

"It has been the greatest privilege of my life to work for Senator Murkowski on behalf of Alaska," he said in a statement provided by his Anchorage lawyer, Jeff Feldman. "I deeply regret the mistakes I made before I came to work in the U.S. Senate and fully accept the consequences of my actions."

Feldman declined further comment.

Murkowski thanked Fuglvog for his years of public service in a statement.

"But he knows the importance and value of our fisheries, and he also knows what all fishermen understand: Fishing laws and regulations must be followed," Murkowski said.

Her spokesman, Matthew Felling, declined to comment further when asked when Murkowski knew of the violation, if she kept him on staff if it was before his resignation, and if she asked him to resign.

Fuglvog is a fifth-generation Petersburg fisherman who served from 2003 to 2006 on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.