Ticketed protester says he does not regret his actions

Man fishes illegally to protest restrictions by fishery managers

Posted: Monday, October 05, 2009

CORDOVA - When wildlife investigators came to Marshall in July, Jason Isaac didn't deny fishing illegally to protest subsistence fishing restrictions on the Yukon River.

The only police officer in the small village was also the only protester who admitted to fishing illegally.

So last Wednesday, Isaac was ticketed. Jim Hjelmgren, the top national refuge officer in Alaska, flew to the village of 400 and handed Isaac a $275 ticket at the airstrip.

But Isaac says he doesn't regret what he did, protesting state and federal fishery managers that had reduced subsistence fishing.

He also didn't think twice about telling the truth to investigators while the other protesters stayed silent.

"If they were calling it a protest fishery, why lie about doing a protest?" asked the 32-year-old Isaac.

He even told investigators they should ticket his oldest son, 10-year-old Dominic, for helping collect the fish the group shared with others.

Isaac said the investigators laughed that comment off.

The reason behind the illegal fishery was an attempt to protest a state and federal fishery manager who had sharply reduced subsistence fishing in the rural village.

On June 26, more than a dozen men traveled about 10 miles upriver to fish illegally in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. They were angry, claiming managers were more concerned with a treaty with Canada, than protecting rural Alaskans.

"So, you know, I'm glad we went out to get some fish for the community," Isaac said. "A lot of the elders are happy. At least they got some fish in their freezer."

Nick Andrew Jr., the head of a tribe in Marshall and one of the protesters, said the tribe is fighting to have the citation dismissed.

"He did that to show the direness of the situation, to show the pressing matter to authorities. He did it to show his stern support of our traditional and customary ways of life," Andrew said.

With five kids, the $275 is not a small amount, especially when, "Out here, groceries cost darn near 100 bucks a bag," Isaac said.

He's been lucky to work a lot in recent months. The state's been updating home plumbing systems in the village, so he's been installing pipes in the day and heading to the police office at night, clocking about 90 hours a week.

The plumbing job is about to end, he said. But the extra money will come in handy when he runs out of fish this year. He said he put away about four kings, several less than he usually does, and that the fish won't last all year like usual.

What will the family do then?

"I have no idea. Probably go and buy some fish sticks at the store."



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