The Alaska Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court’s decision that Yup’ik Fishermen who fished during a state closure should be charged. The decision was issued today.
In 2012, the thirteen defendants, all Yup’ik Alaska Native fishermen living a subsistence lifestyle, were convicted of violating the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s emergency orders restricting fishing for king salmon on the Kuskokwim River.
The defendants moved for dismissal of the charges, asserting that their fishing for king salmon was a religious activity, and that they were entitled to a religious exemption from the emergency orders under the free exercise clause of the Alaska Constitution.
The District Court said the state’s responsibility to protect the declining species of fish outweighed the men’s claim of religious rights.
Attorneys for the Yup’ik fishermen plan to appeal the case to the Alaska Supreme Court.