Kristen M. Renberg, PhD
Chaney v. State
In Chaney v. States, 478 P.3d 222, (Alaska Ct. App. 2020), the court of appeals held that a defendant was properly convicted of fishing with an overlength commercial salmon seine vessel and the regulation for measuring the length of vessels adopted by the State’s Board of Fisheries, while inconsistent with federal regulations, is reasonable. (Id. at 225). Cheney bought his vessel in 2010; and based on federal regulations at the time of the sale, Chaney’s vessel was recorded as 57.5 feet long. (Id. at 225). Later, the Board of Fisheries issued a regulation concerning the measurement of anchor rollers as part of a vessel’s overall length that took effect in April 2017. (Id.). Chaney received a warning from a state trooper that his vessel was overlength on July 9, 2017. (Id.). On July 25, 2017, another state trooper warned Chaney that his vessel was overlength and measured the vessel to be 62.5 feet in length based on the new regulation. (Id. at 226). Chaney was observed seine fishing a few days later. (Id.). The State charged Chaney with fishing with an overlength vessel in violation of AS 16.05.835, and a jury convicted him of this offense. (Id.). On appeal, Chaney argued that the evidence presented at his trial was insufficient to establish that his vessel was overlength because an expert witness had testified that the state trooper’s method of measuring his vessel could have a six-to-nine-inch variance. (Id. at 226–27). Chaney also argued that the new regulation for measuring vessels is inconsistent with the statute. (Id. at 227). The court found neither of these arguments to be persuasive. (Id. at 225). The court noted that the jury is tasked with assessing expert witnesses’ credibility and that reasonable jurors could find the assembly of Chaney’s anchor rollers was covered in the regulation, and, thus, his vessel could be considered overlength. (Id. at 226). The court also discussed the Board of Fisheries’ broad grant of authority and expertise and the general presumption of validity of agency actions. (Id. at 227–28). As such, a court will defer to the agency’s determination so long as it is reasonable. (Id.). Here, the court reasoned that the agency’s decision to assess anchor rollers when measuring the length of a vessel is consistent with AS 16.05.835, which concerns the maximum length for salmon seine vessels, and that the regulation is reasonable (Id. at 228). In summary, the court held that the regulation for measuring the length of vessels was reasonable and the evidence was sufficient to convict Chaney of fishing with an overlength vessel. (Id. at 225).