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Following investigation, US Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka cited for fishing without commercial license

Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate running against Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate running against Sen. Lisa Murkowski.(KTUU)
Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 5:30 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Kelly Tshibaka, Alaska’s former commissioner of the Department of Administration and a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, has been fined for commercial fishing without a commercial crew license, according to the Alaska State Troopers.

According to an online trooper dispatch published Friday, Tshibaka was cited and fined $270.

After a social media campaign video surfaced this July of Tshibaka using commercial fishing gear at what she said was a fish camp in Ninilchik, Alaska Wildlife Troopers opened an investigation. Troopers wrote in the dispatch report that the video “showed commercial fishing activity.”

“After a thorough investigation and in consultation with the Alaska Department of Law’s Office of Special Prosecutions,” the Alaska Wildlife Troopers issued the fine, according to the dispatch report.

Tshibaka can pay the fine, or contest it in Homer District Court.

“While I acknowledge the interpretation of the deciding officials on the commercial crewmember issue and will abide by it, the licensing statute clearly and expressly exempts a ‘visitor or guest’ aboard a commercial fishing vessel, which is obviously what I was,” Tshibaka said in a statement Friday sent by her campaign.

Law enforcement had also investigated whether Tshibaka had illegally obtained a resident fishing license in 2019. The Associated Press reported in August that Tshibaka had received a fishing license at a sportfishing event in August 2019, just eight months after she moved to Alaska to be the Department of Administration commissioner. A person needs to be an Alaska resident for a year before they can apply for a license.

At the time of the Associated Press’ reporting, officials had turned the investigation over to the Department of Law’s special prosecution branch. Tshibaka has only been cited for fishing without a commercial crew license.

According to the Department of Law, there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Tshibaka knowingly violated the law.

“We declined any criminal charges due to insufficient evidence to establish her mental state,” said Grace Lee, a department attorney and spokesperson. “This left the strict liability citation, and we believe it is a good fit.”

The fish camp where Tshibaka was shown in the campaign video to be fishing belongs to former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, who she mentioned in her statement.

“If I have one regret, it’s that this has brought Loren Leman, who has commercially fished without incident for 63 years, into (Sen. Lisa) Murkowski’s political crosshairs,” the statement reads.

Tshibaka is running against Murkowski to represent Alaska in the U.S. Senate in next year’s race.

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