A trial has begun in Bethel for the first of two dozen western Alaska Natives accused of subsistence fishing for king salmon in violation of strict restrictions set by the state because of poor runs.
Bethel District Attorney June Stein says each trial will be heard separately by a judge.
Adolph Lupie of Tuntutuliak is among fishermen awaiting trials on non-criminal gear violations. The 58-year-old Yup’ik Eskimo was in court Monday when the trial of another fisherman began and says a Yup’ik interpreter participated in the proceeding.
Supporters say Alaska Natives should have a more say in managing their fishing grounds.
Government officials say Native input is important, but ensuring sustainability for future runs is always the overriding priority.
In all, 60 fishermen originally faced misdemeanor charges of using restricted gear and/or fishing in closed sections of the Kuskokwim River during the summer king run.
Most charges were later reduced to minor violations and many pleaded guilty to the reduced counts and were ordered to pay $250 fines.