Murkowski fails to answer questions about fisheries aide Fuglvog

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday continued to refuse to answer questions about her top fisheries advisor, who faces nearly a year in prison after he admitted lying about illegally catching at least $100,000 worth of sablefish.

Murkowski staff member Arne Fuglvog signed a plea agreement on April 8 in which he admitted to a misdemeanor charge of breaking federal commercial fisheries law by falsifying catch records. He agreed to accept a sentence of 10 months and pay $150,000 in fines and penalties.

Fuglvog remained on Murkowski's staff until Sunday, when she accepted his resignation. On Monday, he was formally charged and his plea agreement became public. A judge has not yet accepted his guilty plea.

Through her spokesman, Murkowski has repeatedly declined to answer any questions about Fuglvog, including when she learned Fuglvog was under criminal investigation and whether she knew he admitted his crime to federal prosecutors four months ago.

She issued a written statement Tuesday thanking Fuglvog for his service and emphasizing that his crime occurred before joining her staff. The charge of violating the federal Lacey Act involved his ownership and operation of the fishing vessel Kamilar.

A former member of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council who was considered for the job of heading the National Marine Fisheries Service in the Obama administration, he continued representing Murkowski on fisheries issues since agreeing to plead guilty.

Some people in the industry questioned the severity of the charge, saying that commercial fishing violations are sometimes handled as civil complaints. But others said they were shocked to hear Fuglvog, well-known and respected in the industry, admitted engaging in such practices.

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