Subsistence Management Board Investigating Possible Violations

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Members of the federal subsistence management board last week heard comments from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agent who said a two-year investigation is looking into allegations that subsistence fish is being sold to non-subsistence users. Although the agent, Stan Pruszenski spoke at the board meeting, he was not allowed to be interviewed because the case is still ongoing.

The investigation centers around salmon from the Yukon River. Subsistence Management Assistant Regional Director Pete Probasco says customary trade is the legal selling of fish for cash.

Probasco says it became a big enough issue that Fish and Wildlife reports say an investigation was needed and some sales were large.

Probasco says agent Pruzenski wouldn’t share all of the information because the investigation is continuing but he says sales of that size are going beyond the federal users the program was intended for.

Probasco says that concerns legitimate subsistence users.

Probasco says the amount of cash that can be exchanged is handled on a case by case basis. He says some areas such as Bristol Bay and Cooper River have set cash limits, but others allow cash sales as long as it doesn’t constitute a significant commercial enterprise.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Bruce Woods said he couldn’t discuss whether other areas beyond the Yukon were being investigated, nor could he say how long it may be until information can be released.

Federal Subsistence Board Chairman Tim Towarak says Fish and Wildlife has their investigation into alleged abuses, but he says during the recent Alaska Federation of Native’s convention in Fairbanks there were reports from some Alaska Natives of over-reaction from agents who confiscated fish. Towarak says board members need more information.

The next meeting of the Federal Subsistence board will be in January in Anchorage. Proposed fishery regulation changes are on the agenda for action.

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