Southeast captain admits to dumping 8 tons of waste overboard

A Southeast Alaska fishing boat captain has admitted to dumping eight tons of sandblasting waste into the ocean.

According to the plea agreement filed in federal court Monday, Brannon Finney admits to violating the federal Clean Water Act. Finney, 32, has signed the plea agreement, which goes before a judge next month at her sentencing hearing.

The plea agreement says Finney repainted her boat, the F/V Alaskan Girl, in Wrangell in June of 2017. Most of the debris was sandblasting material, but it also included copper slag from removing the Alaskan Girl’s old paint, and the paint chips themselves, the plea agreement says.

Finney had the waste loaded onto the 65-foot tender and set sail for Petersburg, a move that prompted someone in Wrangell to complain to Alaska Wildlife Troopers, according to the plea agreement, which includes vessel tracking data indicating the crew dumped the waste in Sumner Strait.

The evidence also apparently includes a video shot aboard the Alaskan Girl showing crew members slicing open a bag to dump the waste and someone cheering. The video was intended for a possible reality TV show, the plea agreement says.

According to the plea agreement, Finney told a trooper asking about the waste that she had dumped it because — though she had initially intended to give it away for use as landscaping fill — she “did not have time to deal with it because the fishing season was so close.”

Finney had avoided paying about $1,500 in disposal fees by taking the waste, according to the plea agreement.

Now, Finney has agreed to pay an $8,000 fine and to make an additional $2,000 charitable donation to the nonprofit Alaska Fish and Wildlife Fund. Under the plea agreement, she must also pen a public apology, to be printing in a fishing trade publication.

Finney has agreed to plead guilty and is set for sentencing in mid-May.

This is at least the second federal, criminal case connected to the F/V Alaskan Girl: The boat used to be named the Kamilar, and it was owned and operated by Arne Fuglvog.

Fuglvog, once a top candidate to head the National Marine Fisheries Service, was a fisheries adviser to Sen. Lisa Murkowski when he was charged with over-harvest of sable fish. Fuglvog pleaded guilty to the crime, which had occurred prior to him joining Murkowski’s office in 2006.