Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
On Thursday, a judge dismissed subsistence fishing citations against state Senator Albert Kookesh. All but one charge against three co-defendants were also dismissed.
The four were cited for catching more sockeye salmon than their subsistence permits allowed. They were contacted by state troopers July 12, 2009, while beach seining at a bay near Angoon, on Southeast Alaska’s Admiralty Island.
Kookesh and the other defendants, all Angoon residents, challenged the state’s right to manage subsistence on the island, which is mostly federal land.
They lost that round. But they also argued that the state failed to follow its own rules for setting harvest limits.
Kookesh says those limits were too low.
“We challenged what we thought was unfair bag limits on the subsistence-use fishery in Angoon. They said that you can only get 15 fish per family per year and a couple miles away you had commercial seine boats getting thousands of fish a day,” he says.
The charges were dismissed by Sitka Superior Court Judge David George, who presided because Angoon’s magistrate is Kookesh’s daughter.
The others cited were Rocky Estrada Sr., Stanley Johnson, and Scott Hunter. Tony Strong represented the four fishermen.
“The 15-fish limit was not promulgated to all the strictures of the administrative procedures act. And that failure to follow the administrative procedures act means the regulation is not valid and the defendants cannot be prosecuted for failure to follow the 15-fish limit,” he says.
Strong says Hunter still faces a charge alleging he did not get a subsistence permit before he went fishing.
District Attorney Doug Gardner could not be reached for immediate comment.
Kookesh says he hopes the ruling leads to other challenges of subsistence fishing limits.
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