Point Hope Walrus Hunters Sentenced for Federal Violations
Fairbanks, Alaska – Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge, Ryan Noel, announced today that four Point Hope residents were sentenced in Fairbanks by Senior U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Beistline for charges stemming from their involvement in the illegal taking and waste of walruses near Cape Lisburne, Alaska, in September 2015. In issuing the sentences, the court accepted the concurrent sentencing recommendations of the tribal government of the Native Village of Point Hope, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the defendants, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Adam T. Sage, 24, Michael R. Tuzroyluk Jr., 21, Guy S. Tuzroyluk, 27, and Jacob Lane, 24, residents of Point Hope, Alaska, pleaded guilty in federal court in Fairbanks for violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act related to the illegal take of walrus. The charges arose from two hunting trips the men made to Cape Lisburne, Alaska, in 2015, where several hundred to a thousand or more walruses were hauled out on the beach. During the trips, some of the men shot several walruses and salvaged only the ivory tusks, leaving the entire carcass of each animal to waste. On each occasion, their actions caused the herd to stampede, which killed or injured up to two dozen or more additional walruses, half of them calves. All of the walruses killed in the stampedes were left to waste.
As part of a plea agreement, the defendants were sentenced to a three-year term of probation. The Council of the Native Village of Point Hope recommended special terms of probation to be imposed. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and each of the four defendants jointly agreed to those terms. The District Court accepted them and sentenced each defendant to three years’ probation, including these conditions:
Pay $1000 restitution to be used for walrus conservation projects on Alaskan National Wildlife Refuges;
Perform 500 hours of community service in Point Hope;
Publicly apologize for their offenses to the Native Village of Point Hope Council and the Point Hope whaling captains;
Make 12 public presentations in Point Hope and other coastal villages on hunting ethics and the legal duty to salvage in full any animal taken;
No hunting of walrus for one year;
Hunt for the subsistence needs of Point Hope elders during probation.
“The probationary sentence in this case, specifically the jointly recommended special conditions of probation, represent a unique and culturally informed resolution to serious marine mammal violations,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Schroder. “It is appropriate to work with the Native Village of Point Hope and its Council to further the goals of resource protection on which the applicable laws are grounded.”
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commends its law enforcement and conservation partners in aiding with this logistically difficult and after the fact investigation and prosecution. The village of Point Hope has a long tradition of subsistence hunting and fishing and occupies an important and central leadership role in the stewardship of Pacific walrus in Alaska,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge, Ryan Noel. “We are pleased with the sentence developed by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the representatives of Point Hope and are hopeful that it will enhance public awareness of the sensitivity of walrus haul-outs and the taking of walrus in violation of the law.”
This case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement for Northern Alaska, with assistance from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Marine Mammals Management Office, the North Slope Borough Police Department, the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, the Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General Digital Forensic Lab, and the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward, Alaska.