A man pleaded guilty to one count of false labeling and one count of illegally taking a sperm whale. According to the court documents, Dugan Paul Daniels of Coffman Cove, Alaska, knowingly submitted false records about his commercial fishing activities, making it appear that he legally caught sablefish in federal waters when he harvested the fish illegally in Alaska state waters in Chatham Strait and Clarence Strait.

A male sperm whale was found beached in Lynn Canal, north of Berners Bay. Photo courtesy of John Moran/NOAA

Daniels also knowingly took an endangered sperm whale by having his crewman shoot the whale and then tried to ram the whale with his fishing vessel, Pacific Bounty, just southwest of Yakobi Island.

The false labeling violates the Lacey Act. The act is a U.S. conservation law passed in 1900 and amended in 1981 and 2008 to prohibit the illegal trade of fish, wildlife, and plants. It is illegal to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase any of these items if they were taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any U.S. or Native law, treaty, or regulation under the Lacey Act.

Taking a sperm whale is a violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA prohibits certain acts related to endangered species, including taking, importing, exporting, removing, maliciously damaging, transporting, and selling. Penalties for violating the ESA include fines of up to $50,000 and imprisonment.

Daniels is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 16, 2024, and will face a maximum penalty of six years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. The announcements came from U.S. Attorney S. Lane Tucker of the District of Alaska, and the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement investigated the case.

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Carli is a Content Specialist for National Fisherman. She comes from a fourth-generation fishing family off the coast of Maine. Her background consists of growing her own business within the marine community. She resides on one of the islands off the coast of Maine while also supporting the lobster community she grew up in.

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