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Port Graham man fakes death, runs up $384K rescue tab with Coast Guard - KTVA
U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason sentenced 35-year-old Ryan Riley Meganack, aka: “Unga” to serve two-and-a-half years in prison with 15 months to be served consecutively to state sentence.
He pleaded guilty to false distress and felon in possession of a firearm, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney for Alaska Bryan Schroder’s office.
The long-time commercial fisherman and boat captain was scheduled to plead guilty to sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman in December 2016, the release said.
"Meganack was a second-time sex offender and faced many years in prison for that crime," Schroder's office wrote in a news release. "To avoid prison, Meganack hatched a plan to fake his own death, which involved him causing a false report of distress to the U.S. Coast Guard." Meganack planned to flee Alaska when the search for him proved unsuccessful and was suspended."
Meganack talked his younger girlfriend, Ivy Rose Rodriguez, now age 28, into helping him carry off the hoax to flee Alaska.
On Nov. 29, 2016, Meganack reportedly docked his fishing boat, with his seiner skiff in tow near Port Graham Bay where he staged his death, the release said.
Over the next few days, search efforts were initiated which included federal, state and local authorities, as well Port Graham and Nanwalek residents.
"Helicopters from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Coast Guard Cutter Naushon, and Coast Guard command center personnel participated in the operation," the U.S. Attorney's office wrote. "The Coast Guard alone expended approximately $384,261.50 in resources during the search for Meganack. When searchers found Meganack’s skiff, the motor was down, its throttle was forward, the key was in the “on” position, and inside was a single rubber boot and an empty bottle of liquor."
"Defendant’s mother told a local tribal leader, who in turn alerted the Alaska State Troopers that Defendant might be hiding out in Port Graham," court documents said.
Rodriguez cooperated with authorities and told them where her boyfriend was at and that he was armed. He was later found on Dec. 2, 2016, at the makeshift site located about 400 feet from his mother's house.
"In sentencing Meganack, Judge Gleason underscored the seriousness of Meganack’s false distress offense, which she recognized had “an enormous impact” on the Coast Guard and the Port Graham community and “put so many at risk” needlessly," the release said. "The judge emphasized the need to send a message that those who make false distress calls to the U.S. Coast Guard will face criminal penalties."
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.
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FISH FACTOR: Begich shares thoughts on fisheries issues in Kodiak - Alaskajournal.com
“With fisheries, it’s almost the forgotten resource of our state as an economic driver. It’s almost like they are an afterthought. We have to realign that,” said Mark Begich, Democratic candidate for Alaska governor, as we readied for an interview during his trip to Kodiak last week.
Begich came to Kodiak despite the cancelled fisheries debate caused by a no show by his Republican opponent, Mike Dunleavy, who has not responded to requests to share his ideas and vision for Alaska’s oldest industry.
“I think it’s appalling,” Begich said. “I think it shows his lack of respect for our coastal communities and their importance to the economy of this great state and the people who live and work here.”
Begich spoke easily and at length on a wide range of fishing industry topics.
He called state funding for fisheries research and stock assessments a top priority.
“We are never going to be able to manage our fisheries resource the proper way without it. And I think there are opportunities through federal, state as well as foundation money that I believe is out there to help us do this,” he said.
Begich said he is a strong supporter of Alaska’s hatchery program.
“I know there is some conversation going on about hatchery fish impacts in the ocean … But there is no real science around that and the hatcheries have been very successful for us as a state,” he said.
In terms of selecting an Alaska Department of Fish and Game commissioner, Begich said good management skills and the ability to bring people together are critical.
“People are frustrated. They feel like their voice isn’t heard. We need commissioners who are willing to step up to the plate and recognize that it’s their job to bring people together, solve problems and move forward,” Begich said. “Obviously, I would want him or her to be knowledgeable about fisheries. We need someone who understands the controversies that are out there, the uniqueness of our resource, and how to balance it with making sure we do things for the long term and not for the moment.”
The average age of Alaska’s fishing permit holders is 50, and Begich believes the state can help fend off a “graying of the fleet” crisis and give young entrants a boot up.
“First we have to make sure the fisheries remain as stable as possible so future generations can get into that business. Another issue is the capital it takes,” Begich said. “We should look at how to utilize the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, which is a financing arm of the state, and is usually designed for big projects.
“We should figure out if they can be a player in helping to bring low cost capital to the table so that people who want to get into fishing have a chance and are not denied because they don’t have the money or the capacity to borrow. I think there is a tool here that has been underutilized by the state for the fishing industry and a lot of the small business industries that we have.”
The Trump Administration’s push for offshore fish farms gets a thumbs down from Begich.
“Alaska is known for our premium product because we are wild caught,” he said. “Farmed fish could impact our natural stocks if improperly managed. I don’t want any of that in Alaska, for sure.”
Begich also is no fan of Trump’s tariffs on seafood going to and from China, Alaska’s biggest customer.
“This spat that the president has with China is costing Alaskans jobs and money and putting a damper on our products,” he fumed. “With fisheries, if we’re not careful it could add another $500 million to $700 million to the cost of our fish products sold to China. What they will do is decide to buy products from another place and once they do that, we’ll lose our market share.”
“We should be teaming up right now with the governors of Washington, Oregon and the Gulf states, working with the Trump Administration and the...Source: www.alaskajournal.com
New catch limits mean more cod for small boats - KDLG
Bristol Bay Times & Dutch Harbor Fisherman: The small boat Dutch Harbor Pacific pot cod state waters fishery got more fish earlier this month, when the Alaska Board of Fisheries raised the catch limit from 6.4 percent to 8 percent of the overall Bering Sea quota, despite the opposition of the big boat fleets of crabbers, trawlers, factory trawlers, and freezer longliners.
The big boats complained of losing out at a time when cod stocks are decreasing, and crab quotas are way down too.
"This would be a double hit to those user groups whose quotas are already being cut," said Thomas Mack, president and CEO of The Aleut Corporation, in written comments opposing increases to 8, 10, or 20 percent.
The top executives of two community development quota groups said in a joint letter that they feared that for the small boats that would mean less fish for the CDQ regional organizations which own factory trawlers and freezer longliners, "potentially having an adverse impact on tribes in Western Alaska," according to Norman Van Vactor, president of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, and Ragnar Alstrom, executive director of the Yukon Delta Fisheries Association.
The Under Sixty Cod Harvesters supported the increase for the growing fleet of boats under 60 feet long, saying it primarily benefits Alaska residents with low-bycatch gear, but local fisherman from Unalaska and Akutan are upset, saying some of those boats aren't really that small, known as Super 8s, that can pack 250,000 pounds compared to 50,000 pounds for traditional vessels.
But other locals like it.
Three Unalaska residents supported the increased quota for small boats, Roger Rowland and Trevor Shaishnikoff of the fishing vessel Commitment, and Rick Fehst of the F/V April Lane. Another supporter was a frequent visitor during the Dutch Harbor summer herring season, Dan Veerhusen, of the F/V Taurus, of Homer, in written comments to the fish board, meeting on cod issues on Oct. 18 and 19 in Anchorage.
The Bering Sea crab fleet weighed in in a big way opposing the small boats, collectively with a letter from Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers and individually with numerous crab fishermen and boat owners signing the same individually-submitted form letter.
The crab boats also participate in pot cod fisheries, and ABSC noted that with reduced crab quotas, the boats are facing yet another cut in fishing opportunity with the loss of cod quota to the small boats. The duplicate letter of opposition was submitted by representatives of Aleutian Spray LLC, Scandies Rose, and New Venture and others.
The Bering Sea pollock factory trawlers fleet also sent a lengthy report opposing the increase on conservation grounds, from At-sea Processors Association Executive Director Stephanie Madsen, citing a threat to young cod in near-shore waters.
Madsen said a baited underwater camera deployed earlier this year in Kodiak showed small cod attracted to the device, indicating that giving more fish to the small boats inshore could have an adverse impact on future generations of cod in both the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.
The Freezer Longliner Coalition, representing 27 active vessels and 11 companies, opposed the quota increases, and Executive Director Chad See said some of the Super 8s carry as much fish as boats twice as long.
The Ground Fish Forum, representing Amendment 80 factory trawlers, was also opposed, as was United Catcher Boats, representing trawlers delivering to shore plants.
All the proposed increases were opposed by the Unalaska Dutch Harbor Fish and Game Advisory Committee, complaining that small local boats are getting aced out by the high-capacity, wide and deep, 58-foot-long vessels known as Super 8s.
Now, the Unalaska Native Fisherman's Association, the Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska, and the Akutan Fisherman's Association...Source: www.kdlg.org