Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, May 03, 2005

New types of halibut permits offered

JUNEAU - The National Marine Fisheries Service announced Monday the introduction of three new types of subsistence halibut fishing permits in Alaska.

The permits - for community, ceremonial and educational harvesting - have been approved by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

The community harvest permit allows a rural community or Southeast Alaska Native tribe to select individual, skilled fishermen to harvest halibut on behalf of the entity. The authorized fishermen would be allowed 30 hooks per person, a maximum of 90 hooks per vessel and unrestricted retention of halibut.

A community or tribe must meet stringent eligibility and reporting requirements and may only possess one such permit at a time. The permit would expire after one year.

The ceremonial and educational permits allow tribes in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska to harvest up to 25 halibut per permit in a period of 30 days from the permit's date of issuance.

"Ceremonial permits allow halibut harvest for specific ceremonial events such as potlatches and marriages. Educational permits allow students who attend Alaska Native cultural camps to learn traditional methods and means of harvesting halibut for subsistence," Jim Balsiger, Alaska regional administrator for the fisheries service, said in a written statement.

The ceremonial and educational permits must be returned within 15 days of their expiration, regardless of whether fish are harvested.

Eligible tribes may possess multiple permits and can apply for more if needed.

Adult charges against boy dismissed

JUNEAU - Juneau prosecutors are no longer seeking adult armed robbery charges against a 17-year-old boy, but his mother has been indicted on robbery and conspiracy charges in the April 18 crime.

Ricardo Contreras was charged April 20 with first-degree robbery of a 64-year-old man who reported to police that he was held up at gunpoint in Cope Park. He said the thief, who wore a bandana over his face, appeared from the woods.

"The adult charges have been dismissed against Mr. Contreras," Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner said Monday after filing the paperwork. Contreras had been scheduled to appear Monday at a preliminary hearing to determine if there was probable cause for the felony charges.

Gardner said he could say nothing more and could not comment on the possibility of juvenile court charges.

Elizabeth Sosa-Flores, 46, who was charged along with Contreras was indicted Friday by the grand jury on charges of first-degree robbery and first-degree conspiracy to commit robbery. The indictment also charged Kathleen Church, 41, with first-degree robbery and first-degree conspiracy to commit robbery.

The April 20 affidavit Gardner provided to the court to initially charge Contreras and Sosa-Flores alleges Church was involved in planning and rehearsing the robbery, although she was not initially arrested.

Gardner said Monday that a warrant had been issued for her arrest.

According to court records, the man who was robbed had agreed to meet Sosa-Flores about lending her money.

Jury chosen for Greenpeace trial

ANCHORAGE - Lawyers selected a jury Monday that will decide whether Greenpeace and its contract ship were criminally negligent by failing to have the proper oil spill response paperwork during an anti-logging campaign.

The environmental activist group, the captain of the Arctic Sunrise and the ship's agent all are charged with misdemeanor criminal counts of operating a vessel without a spill contingency plan or proof of financial responsibility in case of a spill, as required by state law.

Opening statements were scheduled Tuesday in state District Court in Ketchikan. Because the case involves misdemeanor charges, it will be heard by only six jurors and two alternates.

"We feel good about the jury and feel confident they'll listen to all the evidence and render a fair verdict based on the evidence presented in court," said Greenpeace attorney Tom Wetterer.

State environmental regulators cited Greenpeace Inc., Arctic Sunrise Capt. Arne Sorensen and ship agent Willem Beekman last July for not filing a spill response plan or having a financial responsibility certificate. According to court documents, the ship was carrying more than 70,000 gallons of "petroleum products" when it arrived in southeast Alaska for the protest campaign against logging in the Tongass National Forest.

In Alaska, nontank vessels larger than 400 gross tons must file an oil spill response plan application five days before entering state waters.

The group contends the paperwork oversight was a mistake that was quickly corrected. Those on board didn't know such documents were required, Wetterer said.

The criminal negligence charges carry a maximum penalty of a $200,000 fine for an organization and a year in prison and a $10,000 fine for an individual.

The trial is expected to wind up at the end of the week, said Assistant Attorney General Jay Fayette, who on Tuesday plans to call his first witnesses, including a radio reporter who interviewed Sorensen after the Arctic Sunrise left Ketchikan.

Sen. Murkowski still investigating Bolton

FAIRBANKS - Testimony and information submitted so far has not persuaded U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski to oppose John Bolton's nomination as U.N. ambassador, the Alaska Republican said.

Murkowski, however, said her personal investigation is continuing.

Murkowski, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said last month she had supported the decision to delay a committee vote on Bolton's nomination. She supported the delay because of new information presented at a hearing, she said.

Bolton is under secretary of state for arms control and international security. His nomination was jeopardized after Democrats on the Senate committee raised new allegations that Bolton had verbally abused subordinates.

Murkowski told Alaska reporters last week in Washington, D.C. that she wanted that information fully discussed. The committee chairman, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., probably could have secured a majority vote for Bolton, she said.

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