Tribe Files Lawsuit to Halt ‘Illegal Gill Net Fishing’

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Fish and Wildlife Service worker on boat checking gill net full of fish [Stock Photo by Pedro Ramirez Jr./U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikimedia Commons]

Press release from the Yurok Tribe:

Today, the Yurok Tribe filed a case in the US District Court for the Northern District of California that seeks to halt illegal gillnet fishing in the Lower Klamath River.

The Yurok Tribe is seeking a declaratory judgement against the Resighini Rancheria as well as Rancheria Secretary Gary Dowd for their unauthorized harvest of Klamath River fish within the Yurok Reservation. Tribal and state law enforcement have cited Dowd, and other members of the Resighini Rancheria, numerous times for fishing on the Lower Klamath River without a Yurok Tribal or California State license.

“This action is a last resort,” said Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr., Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “We have an obligation and a responsibility to stand up for the fish because they do not have a voice.”

Yurok Tribe is the largest tribe in California with over 6,100 members. The Yurok Reservation straddles the Lower Klamath River, extending for one mile on each side of the River from the mouth at the Pacific Ocean approximately 45 miles upriver to the confluence of the Trinity River.

The Resighini Rancheria consists of approximately 228 acres of land located entirely within the Yurok Reservation. Although some Rancheria members are of Yurok descent, they are not members of Yurok Tribe.

The Yurok Tribe alone maintains federally protected Tribal fishing rights in the Lower Klamath River. In 1988, Congress enacted the Hoopa-Yurok Settlement Act (HYSA), which partitioned the then existing Reservation into two separate Reservations for the Hoopa Valley Tribe and the Yurok Tribe. The HYSA gave the Resighini Rancheria membership an opportunity to become members of the Yurok Tribe, and thereby participate in the Yurok Tribe’s reserved fishing right. Instead, the Rancheria’s membership elected not to take part in this right, and other rights enjoyed by Yurok Tribal members, in exchange for a buy-out of $15,000 per-person.

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