Fishermen Charged with Killing Steller Sea Lions

Two commercial fishermen are charged in the deaths of 15 Steller sea lions whose bodies were found during the opening of the 2015 Copper River salmon fishery, and for allegedly obstructing an investigation into their criminal activity.

The charges against Jon Nichols, 31, of Cordova, captain of the F/V Iron Hide, and deckhand Theodore “Teddy” Turgeon, 21, of Wasilla, were announced this past week by US Attorney Bryan Schroder in Anchorage. 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. Steller sea lions are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and are listed as an endangered species for the area where their deaths occurred.

The indictment alleges that on various occasions between May and June 2015 Nichols regularly directed his crew, including Turgeon, to shoot at Steller sea lions while fishing in the Copper River fishing district, and that at times Nichols himself would shoot.

The indictment further alleges that upon learning of an investigation into the deaths of the Steller sea lions that Nichols and Turgeon obstructed the investigation by removing the shotgun from the vessel and coordinating false stories regarding the incidents. Turgeon is also charged with making false statements to NOAA 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.