Two Alaska men have been sentenced in federal court for harassing and killing Steller sea lions with two shotguns, as well as obstructing the investigation that followed, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney for Alaska Bryan Schroder.

Court documents stated that a federal investigation began after 15 Steller sea lions were found dead at the mouth of the Copper River, during the opening of the 2015 Copper River salmon season.

Jon Nichols, 31 of Cordova, was captain of the fishing vessel Iron Hide during the 2015 season and Theodore Turgeon, 21 of Wasilla, was part of the crew.

Officials say that Nichols directed his crew, including Turgeon, to shoot at sea lions. Nichols would drive the boat so that his crew could get a good shot, and would also shoot the sea lions himself, according to court documents.

Of the two shotguns used, one belonged to Nichols and the other was Turgeon's.

From June 2015 through Oct. 2016, Nichols obstructed the federal investigation by lying about having firearms on the Iron Hide and asking his crew to lie about the shootings, according to the release.

Steller sea lions are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In the Copper River fishing district, they are listed as an endangered species.

Nichols pleaded guilty to a count of Marine Mammal Protection Act - illegal take and a count of obstruction of a Marine Mammal Protection Act Investigation in June 2018. Nichols was sentenced to five years probation, three months home incarceration and 400 hours of community service. He must also pay a $20,000 fine and issue a public apology in a national magazine that covers commercial fishing.

Turgeon pleaded guilty to one count of Marine Mammal Protection Act - illegal take. He was sentenced to four years probation, one month home incarceration and 40 hours of community work service. He must pay a $5,000 fine.

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