Aleutian development group charged with fishery violation

Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2001

UNALASKA (AP) -- The Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association and its top official are facing charges for exceeding the groups quota during the 2001 opilio crab season.

The state has charged Larry Cotter, the APICDA chief executive officer, with overshooting the groups quota by 1,459 pounds. The group was permitted an opilio harvest in the 188,000-pound range this year.

APICDA is one of six community development quota groups that are allocated a small portion of commercial fisheries catches in the region. Those groups are supposed to use the royalties to promote economic development in local communities.

If convicted, Cotter could be jailed for a year and fined as much as $15,000. APICDA could be faced with forfeiture of the two vessels involved in the crab harvest.

Peter Partnow, an APICDA attorney, said the possibility of such a severe penalty for a small amount was ludicrous. Using the state figures, APICDA missed its overall quota by less than 1 percent.

Most, if not all of the quota groups have overshot their quota at some time, Partnow said.

Partnow didnt like the timing of the charges, which came two months after APICDA filed a lawsuit claiming that state and federal fishery managers had improperly allocated quotas for the various groups.

''I suppose it could just be a total coincidence, but it does cause one to raise one's eyebrows,'' Partnow said.

Sgt. Donna Edmond, who oversees the Unalaska Fish and Wildlife Protection office, said the implication that APICDA was targeted is false.

Edmond said she could not provide specific details about the case, which is still being investigated, but said neither she nor the investigating Alaska State Trooper even knew of the pending lawsuits against the state when the case was being reviewed.

''It had nothing to do with that at all,'' she said.

Edmond also said the quota program is much different than the chaotic derby-style fishery that the rest of the commercial fleet operates under. Quota fishermen may fill their quota over a broader time span and can nibble away at it on several trips. The crab quotas are also easier for vessels to peg than others, she said, because once the quota is reached they can return excess live crab to the sea.

When the APICDA vessels were making their last trips, they had a relatively small amount of their quota remaining, according to Edmond. She said they overshot that figure by about 4 percent.

Edmond disputed APICDA's claim that quota overshoots are common. She knew of no other group that has exceeded its quota since the program began in 1998. In a single case involving king crab, a skipper from another CDQ group was charged.

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