Alaska Wildlife Troopers say that as part of a summer enforcement program, they conducted boardings in the Alaska Peninsula and Unimak Island commercial salmon fishery known as Area M, and issued citations in nine incidents where commercially caught fish were discarded.
The trooper report issued this past week said that collectively, troopers boarded over 100 commercial vessels, with some 300 commercial fishermen contacted and 21 citations issued. Of those 21 citations, nine were issued to captains and crew who were observed discarding commercially caught salmon from their vessels after the fish were brought on board.
Alaska Department of Public Safety spokesperson Austin McDaniel said all nine individuals cited for dumping commercially caught fish must appear before a judge, and that his agency had been hearing for several years that dumping of commercial fish might be an issue and this year extra aerial and vessel support and more wildlife troopers were deployed to assure the protection of Alaska’s wildlife resources.
Citations for discarding commercially caught salmon are extremely rare, he said. Those cited may continue fishing, but are issued a mandatory court date.
The maximum fine for a Class A misdemeanor is a $15,000 fine and a year in jail.
People living in communities along the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers have contended for years that commercial fishermen working the ocean waters north of the Alaska Peninsula were intercepting many of the salmon bound for their river systems.
Serena Fitka, executive director of the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association, said she felt that state wildlife troopers are taking this issue a little more seriously after extensive testimony presented at the Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting this past February.
The citations, Fitka said, highlight and proves that the concerns of people in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region of western Alaska have actually been occurring over the last 40 years.