Bethel Judge Bruce Ward heard testimony from two more fishermen, Tom Carl and Oscar Evon, today. Both men, like other fishermen testifying before them, talked about their spirituality and religious connection to King salmon. Both men had been cited last June for fishing during King salmon closures. They both testified about the importance of not just feeding their immediate family, but the Yup’ik tradition of sharing with others in need. However, like the other cases before them, the court found that religion wasn’t enough reason to fish during state closures.
Judge Ward repeated that the state had a compelling need to restrict the King salmon harvest because of the low run last year.
Tom Carl was sentenced like most other fishermen to $500 with half of it suspended, his net was returned, the fish were forfeited, and he was put on probation for one year.
Oscar Evon’s case was a little different. He was teleconferenced in from Anchorage, where he has been living for the last five years. His family is from Kwigillingok and he goes there every summer to fish. He was fined for not only fishing during a closure but for having regularly fished with a net that was 564 feet long. State regulations stipulate nets can never exceed 300 feet.
Evon said his family attaches two nets together during King season for efficiency because they have to travel so far to fish. He said they use about 40 gallons of gas to get round trip from the village to good fishing which can cost over $300 per trip. The net that Alaska State Troopers seized last summer included an 8 inch net and 5 ½ inch net that had been tied together. As part of Evon’s sentence for two separate counts, the court took the 8 inch net. Evon was also sentenced to $1,000 with half of it suspended and put on probation for one year. His fish was also forfeited, like all the fished seized by fishermen last summer.
There is one more fishermen to be heard-Howard Nicholai-but he is currently out of state so the court rescheduled his trial for June 17 at 11 a.m.
The Defense is appealing the fishermen cases to the Alaska Supreme Court.