Protesters fined for illegal personal-use fishing

Posted: Wednesday, March 01, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Four Native women arrested last summer after challenging a subsistence ban on fishing in restricted waters were fined $25 after a trial Tuesday.

''It's just a confirmation that the state of Alaska is definitely out to destroy the cultures of the Alaska Native people,'' protester Desa Jacobsson told KTOO-FM afterward. ''We've seen it through legislation and now we've seen it through the court administration, and we've certainly seen it through the administration.''

Jacobsson, Wanda Culp, Jackie McLean and Tracy Gonzalez tested restrictions against subsistence fishing by catching sockeye salmon in a Juneau pond near the Mendenhall Glacier where salmon traditionally had been harvested by Tlingit fishermen.

They alerted state officials and the media, then used a 60-foot beach seine net deployed from a rubber raft to catch five fish. They were charged with personal-use fishing without a permit.

State troopers recorded the incident on videotape and played the tape at the 40-minute trial.

Judge Patricia Collins said the law was clear that creek and pond were was closed to all fishing for conservation purposes. She urged the protesters to pursue their cause in other ways.

The protesters could have been fined up to $300.

Urban areas such as Juneau are considered nonsubsistence areas under the federal Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which gives rural residents a subsistence priority.

Jacobsson contends that laws against subsistence fishing in urban areas amount to a ban on practicing Native cultural traditions.

On Jan. 10 Jacobsson, the Green Party candidate for governor in 1998, vowed to stop eating until state and federal authorities grant subsistence hunting and fishing rights to Native Alaskans. Her hunger strike lasted about four weeks.

Culp said the state has refused to recognize traditional fishing areas and harvest techniques.

''We have to answer to the board of fish,'' Culp said. ''Anyone who has gone in front of the Board of Fish knows that is not a friendly territory. We have to have everybody understand that we use these areas respectfully and we never depleted the resources. They were here alive and well when the state of Alaska took over.''

She said sport fishing has ruled state's decisions in management, law enforcement and the courts.

''We're all under siege because we refuse to go the sportfishing route. We have customary and traditional methods that are much more efficient and respectful of the resource,'' Culp said.

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