Attorney: Fishermen should get first go at kings

An attorney for Alaska Natives cited for illegal fishing is renewing his religious protection defense, saying the state could conserve king salmon runs on the Kuskokwim River while giving Yup’ik Eskimos subsistence priority to accommodate their long-held spiritual views.

James J. Davis Jr. says in a court brief that Yup’ik people believe animals have “yua” – or spirits – offered to worthy hunters. He says fishing bans could cause the kings not to return.

The brief filed Monday in Bethel elaborates on an earlier filing claiming religious protection rights for the 21 fishermen, whose trials are set to begin April 15.

Three other fishermen tried separately in October were found guilty of violating fishing restrictions for kings during a weak run last summer. The men were each fined $250.

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