First Kuskokwim Protest Fishermen Arrive in Court, Most Don't Take the Bait
About a dozen of the fishermen cited for fishing during the subsistence closure appeared in the Bethel Courthouse on Monday.
They are the first of 33 to be arraigned on fishing violations stemming from the protest fishing that took place on the Kuskokwim River last week.
The state of Alaska offered the fishermen a deal yesterday, but few took the bait. The state offered to reduce the charges in exchange for a guilty plea. They also offered a reduction in fines for the offences, saying the $500 fine will be reduced to $250 if they stay free of other offences for a year. The state also added to the bait, offering to return subsistence nets and other gear, that was confiscated last week, to the fishermen.
But, the majority of the fishermen held fast to their guns, believing that it is a matter of principle. One defendant, Felix Flynn told KTUU, "I am innocent and I am only trying to support my family, my children, my grandchildren."
The King Salmon run on the Kuskokwim has been dwindling for years and this year is no exception. Btween 109,000 and 146,000 were expected to return this year. Those numbers are well below the average 260,000 Kings that generally return to the area. But, even those numbers may be high.
The subsistence fishery opened on Sunday night.