Sitka judge David George dismissed subsistence fishing violation charges against Alaska State Senator Albert Kookesh on Thursday, according to the Kookesh's Anthony Strong.
"It was a good result," Strong said. "The charges were dismissed against Albert (Kookesh), Rocky (Estrada), Stanley (Johnson Sr.), and Scott (Hunter). The decision made by the judge was fair. The judge ruled the 15-fish bag limit under which my clients were cited was adopted without providing for public comment and participation that is required by state law. I feel the judge made the right decision regarding this issue."
Strong said he still had a charge against Hunter that needed to be resolved, which concerned Hunter getting a permit after already being cited by Alaska Department of Fish & Game officers for exceeding the 15-fish bag limit.
"But charges for the bag limit offense were dismissed for all four of my clients," Strong said. "I don't know quite how to deal with Hunter's additional charge yet, but I will be talking to the prosecution about it and will see what we can do to resolve this."
District Attorney Doug Gardner said they would wait to see the judge's written decision, as this was an oral one, before deciding on any possible further steps.
The defendants had previously challenged the state's right to manage subsistence on the island where Angoon is located, but lost.
Kookesh said he thought the bag limits were unfair.
"They say you can only get 15 fish per family per year and a couple miles away you had commercial seine boats getting thousands of fish a day," Kookesh said. "We have always provided for our elders with subsistence, it is the only way they can get their fish."
Southeast Alaska Seiners Association Executive Director Bob Thorstenson Jr. said he too was cited for what he considered an obscure state violation, and said this decision is a good one, but he disagreed with Kookesh.
"The good news it was a record return and escapement at Kanalku Bay," Thorstenson said. "But for Kookesh to say seiners were fishing sockeye (nearby) is a false statement. Seiners were fishing for pink salmon 75 miles away from Angoon."
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