Vessel captain sentenced for pollutant discharge

A commercial fishing boat captain from Washington state has been sentenced for unlawful discharge of eight tons of sandblast waste into Sumner Strait between Wrangell and Petersburg in Southeast Alaska.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew Scoble handed down the sentence for Brannon Finney, 32, of Bellingham, WA, captain of the F/V Alaskan Girl on May 22 in Anchorage. The waste, generated from the recent re-painting of the Alaskan Girl, was a mixture of the copper slag used to remove the paint from the vessel, plus some 15 gallons removed in the sandblast process.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Anchorage said the waste had been loaded onto the vessel at Finney’s direction. Finney was ordered to pay a fine of $8,000, plus an additional $2,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as a community service payment, and to perform 40 hours of community work service. He will be on probation for 18 months and is required to post a public apology.

Accompanying Finny and two crewmembers was a cameraman filming for a possible cable TV reality show. Video footage taken during the trip captured one of the brailer bags with the waste hanging overboard the vessel while the crewmembers sliced through the bag with a knife. Afterwards, black sandy waste spilled from the sliced bag into the water, while at least one of the crew audibly cheered, according to the attorney general’s report.

Once the vessel arrived in Petersburg, video footage showed an interaction between Finny and an Alaska Wildlife Trooper in which the trooper informed Finney that he had received a complaint about the vessel leaving the shipyard in Wrangell with sandblasting waste. The recording showed the trooper asking Finney where the waste went and Finny replied “we just dumped it. An investigation revealed that Finney unlawfully discharged the waste into Sumner Strait to avoid spending $1,460 to dispose of it properly.