Harvesters charged with killing sea lions

A commercial fisherman and his deckhand have been charged with harassing and killing 15 Steller sea lions found dead during the opening of the 2015 Copper River salmon fishery.

Jon Nichols, 31, of Cordova, captain of the F/V Iron Hide, and deckhand Theodore “Teddy” Turgeon, 21, of Wasilla, are charged with harassing and killing the Steller sea lions with shotguns and then making false statements and obstructing the government’s investigation into their criminal activities, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Anchorage said April 19.

The charges include conspiracy, violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act, obstruction of a Marine Mammal Protection Act investigation, false statements and obstruction.

According to the indictment, 15 Steller sea lions were found dead along the sand bars at the mouth of the Copper River fishing district during the first few weeks of the salmon gillnet season that opened on May 14, 2015. The government alleges that between May and June of 2015 that Nichols regularly directed his crew, including Turgeon, to get a shotgun aboard the vessel and shoot at the sea lions while fishing. At times, Nichols would shoot himself, and he also at times drove the vessel in the direction of the Steller sea lions so Turgeon could get a better shot at the sea lions, the indictment said.

The indictment further alleges that the two men obstructed the investigation by removing the shotgun from their vessel and coordinating false stories between crew members about the presence of shotguns and shooting sea lions.

Turgeon is also charged with making false statements to an enforcement agent of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Nichols is charged with obstructing and attempting to obstruct a grand jury investigation by trying to influence his crew not to provide truthful information relevant to the investigation.