Kodiak Fisherman Faces $1 Million Fine and Time in Federal Prison

by Jon D. B.

Abiding fishing and hunting laws isn’t just the Outsider way, it’s also the best way to avoid time in federal prison and a whopping fine.

Take this commercial Alaskan fisherman, for example. 47-year-old James Aaron Stevens now faces a $1 million fine for falsifying his records over “hundreds of thousands of pounds” of halibut and sablefish, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska cites.

Ouch. Stevens additionally faces 126 days in a halfway house for his crimes. Then, 80 hours of community service are to follow. C’mon, James! This is not the way.

The Kodiak, Alaska man’s gargantuan scheme has been unearthed via his operation of both F/V Alaskan Star and F/V Southern Seas. In November of 2020, Stevens would plead guilty to falsely reporting his enormous 903,208-pound halibut and sablefish harvest, Alaska officials say.

Now, September brings his sentencing courtesy of U.S. District Judge Joshua M. Kindred. And if the above weren’t enough, Stevens also has to issue a public service announcement admitting his crimes in order to educate the public on the severe penalties that come with falsifying records – angling or otherwise.

“Stevens knowingly falsified numerous documents—IFQ [Individual Fishing Quota] 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,” U.S. Attorney’s Office authorities clarify.

Officials say Stevens would commit his crimes “over the course of 26 fishing trips spanning four IFQ fishing seasons (2014-2017).”

Kodiak Fishermen’s Violation of Lacey Act Valued at $4,522,210

In retrospect, however, Stevens is getting off light. According to Alaska authorities, his halibut and sablefish harvest holds a value of $4,522,210. The market value? An even more staggering $13,566,630.

His crimes come in violation of the Lacey Act, which NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement upholds. The organization would spearhead a multi-year investigation to bring down Stevens. A special agent’s painstaking examination of Stevens’ landing reports, state fish tickets, and logbooks would eventually nail him.

If you or any fellow Kodiak anglers know of similar fraudulent activity, NOAA asks that it be reported to both state authorities and to their the Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964.

So how did Stevens manage to rack up such an unbelievable harvest value? Sablefish, sablefish, and more sablefish. According to Field & Stream, sablefish hold the highest value for a finfish per pound in Alaska and the West Coast. This, the trade cites, is due to their rich oil content.

In addition, halibut bring big paydays for their girth alone. These whoppers can weigh 500-pounds each, growing to over 8-feet in length. Halibut, too, are one of the North Pacific’s most sought-after and valuable commodities. And chances are, if you’re eating halibut, it came from Alaska.

So remember, Outsiders, the rules & regs are in place for a reason. Don’t be like James.