Six fishing vessels were seized this month after their operators were discovered drifting gillnets one to two nautical miles outside an open fishing area in Kulukak Bay in Southwest Alaska, state troopers say.
The operators and permit holders aboard the boats were charged with misdemeanor commercial fishing in closed waters. Troopers said all the fishermen are from Togiak, a village of nearly 900 people 67 miles west of Dillingham.
Alaska Wildlife Troopers patrolled the bay around 10 p.m. on July 8 in the Togiak commercial salmon fishing district after receiving reports about the rule-breaking fishermen.
A trooper flew over the area in a Piper Supercub and spotted multiple vessels drifting gillnets up to two miles outside the fishing district, troopers reported in a Wednesday online dispatch.
The trooper photographed and documented the area where the boats were located. He also landed on the water and interviewed one of the fishermen, according to the report.
A week later, wildlife troopers involved in the Bristol Bay salmon enforcement program traveled to Togiak Bay by boat and plane and executed search warrants, resulting in the seizure of four commercial fishing vessels. Two more fishing boats were seized in the following days as well, according to troopers.
Many of Togiak's villagers practice subsistence lifestyles, relying heavily on the bay’s bounty.
Several of the fishermen have already pleaded guilty and been sentenced in Dillingham.