Alaska Fisherman Who Killed Endangered Sea Lions with Shotgun Forced to Publish Apology in Fishing Magazine

Steller sea lion
File photo: Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus). Federal officials launched an investigation back in 2015 after 15 Steller sea lions were found dead. iStock

An Alaska fisherman who pleaded guilty to killing endangered sea lions with a shotgun has been ordered to write a public apology for a national fishing magazine.

Federal officials in the district of Alaska ruled on Wednesday that Jon Nichols, 31, of Cordova, would also be sentenced to five years of probation, three months of home incarceration, 400 hours of community service, and pay a $20,000 fine for his role in the slaughter.

Another man, Theodore “Teddy” Turgeon, 21, of Wasilla, was handed four years of probation, one month of home incarceration, 40 hours of community work service and a $5,000 fine. Both men pleaded guilty in June this year to breaking the Marine Mammal Protection Act. 

It remains unclear in which national magazine the fisherman’s apology would be published.

Federal officials launched an investigation back in 2015 after 15 Steller sea lions were found dead at the mouth of the Copper River at the opening of salmon fishing season.

The probe found that Nichols—as captain of the fishing vessel Iron Hide—ordered his crew, which included Turgeon, to shoot at the species in May and June of that year.

“The shootings were carried out using a pair of shotguns kept aboard the vessel, one each belonging to Nichols and Turgeon,” the Department of Justice (DoJ) said in a release. “Nichols would shoot the Steller sea lions himself, and at other times, [he] would drive the Iron Hide in the direction of the Steller sea lions to allow Turgeon and his crew to get a better shot.” 

The fishermen learned there was an investigation into the deceased sea lions and attempted to obstruct it between June 2015 and October 2016, federal officials said this week.

The DoJ said Nichols obstructed the investigation by “coordinating false stories between his crew members regarding the shooting of sea lions and about the presence of firearms aboard the vessel.” Turgeon also allegedly lied to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) agents by claiming there had been no weapons on the Iron Hide. He initially denied they had blasted the sea lions with shotguns.

“This crew admitted to shooting over 50 rounds at sea lions and killing at least three of the 15 dead sea lions that rolled up in 2015,” said assistant U.S. Attorney Aunnie Steward, according to the Associated Press. She said it was likely other crews were doing the same thing.

"I would say collectively what was happening in that fishery at that time was some of the worst we've seen in decades, if not ever," Steward noted.

The Steller sea lion is listed as endangered in the region where the shooting occured. They were listed under the Endangered Species Act back in 1990, NOAA says. The species is the largest member of the the “eared seals” family which includes all sea lions and fur seals.

Steller sea lion File photo: Male Steller sea lions lying on a rock. An Alaska fisherman who pleaded guilty to killing endangered sea lions with a shotgun has been ordered to write a public apology for a national fishing magazine. iStock

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