Tribal group loses bid for Taku fishery

Subsistence board says fishery is out of its jurisdiction

Posted: Monday, December 11, 2000

The Federal Subsistence Board has rejected a proposal by the Douglas Indian Association to allow a new subsistence fishery near the Taku River south of Juneau.

"The fishery they would recommend being established would have been in Taku Inlet, which at this time is not under federal jurisdiction," said Bill Knauer of the Federal Subsistence Board.

The federal government last year took over management of subsistence fisheries on federal land, but it has limited its jurisdiction in Southeast to subsistence fisheries in fresh water. The Douglas Indian Association proposed a subsistence fishery "on the Taku River," not in the inlet, but federal fisheries biologist Cal Casipit said the wording would have allowed for a subsistence fishery in marine waters because it called for a boundary north of Point Bishop, at the mouth of Taku Inlet.

"If you look at where Point Bishop is and extended that line, that basically is extending (the fishery) to marine waters outside our jurisdiction," said Casipit. He added the draft line of jurisdiction drawn by the federal government starts by the Taku Glacier, where fresh water meets salt water. He said that's about 12 miles up the inlet from Point Bishop, but the line could move pending a review by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Clarence Laiti of the Douglas Indian Association said his group was not surprised by the decision and that it will continue its quest. He said Douglas Indians trace their heritage to the Taku River, a major salmon producer that extends into Canada.

"We already knew we would be turned down. We'll just keep moving forward until something is resolved," said Laiti. "The majority of Douglas people came from the Taku River. ... Our family has been here for hundreds of generations."

Four commercial fishing organizations opposed the proposal because it called for a federal subsistence fishery in marine waters. Two of the groups also argued Douglas residents would not qualify as rural users, which is required under federal subsistence laws. Laiti said the rural requirement should not disqualify Douglas Indians from claiming their ancestral rights.

"You have to understand the Douglas people come from the Taku people, our ancestors are from up there. Many Juneau people here have relatives in Canada," said Laiti, who is also a commercial gillnetter. "No one ever figured Juneau would get this big and everybody would be fighting over fish."

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