Last week in the Prince of Wales court, Southeast Alaska skipper, Curtis Demmert of Klawock, learned of his punishment for Creek Robbing 65 miles into closed waters in Coco Harbor last September.
“On December 19, 2017 Demmert pleaded guilty to Commercial Fishing During Closed Period (for “creek robbing” near a salmon spawning stream), Commercial Fishing in Closed Waters, False Information on an ADF&G Fish Ticket, and Unlawful Possession of Fish,” the Department of Law reported.
The court imposed a sentence that included a fine of $32,728.79, a suspended jail term of 180 days, forfeit $17,728.79 from the illegally caught salmon and forfeit the F/V Tlingit Lady, the seine skiff, seine nets, and everything aboard the vessel to the State of Alaska on the 10th of January.
According to court documents, Demmert traveled to the location, 65 miles from the commercial fishing area, where fishing has been prohibited for almost three decades, and began fishing near several salmon-bearing streams in the area.
Wildlife troopers were alerted by a caller reporting the illegal fishing. During Demmert’s theft of fish, the caller again called in and reported that Demmert had made a second set. During the time of the illegal activity, the caller took pictures and videos of the incident. That imagery was crucial in the prosecution of the case, the Assistant Attorney general Aaron Peterson stated.
While most fishing violations are inadvertent, with the boat drifting a few feet over the line, Demmert knew he was fishing illegally miles inside of the boundary. After he completed his sets, he turned out all the lights on the vessel and quietly left the area in the darkness.
The next day, September 14, 2017, Demmert went to the tender and off-loaded his catch of 23,159 pounds, which he said came from the Mclean Arm. The other fishermen in that area made deliveries on average of 9,000 pounds.
The prosecutor stated that “without vigorous enforcement of the regulations, fish in Alaska could be wiped out, and the employment, sport, subsistence, and traditions of Alaskans gone with them.” In arguing for forfeiture of the fishing vessel the prosecutor stated “other commercial fishermen and the general public must know that if a fisherman commits an offense this egregious, the vessels and instrumentalities used in aid of the violation will be lost to them.”