Wildlife Troopers Detachment Commander Rex Leath said troopers observed operators of the commercial seine vessels Little Star, Relentless, Northstar and Windstar making a “dedicated effort” in Dog Fish Bay south of Homer to drive salmon out of waters closed to commercial seining.
Troopers say on July 20, Homer and Anchor Point residents Paul Roth, Mark Roth, Robert Roth and Eric Winslow worked for hours, allegedly using “hand plungers” and the vessels themselves to push fish into open waters.
“The main seine boat started in open water and drove into closed water,” Leath explained. “The three other boats in this situation pushed for almost two hours, pushed a large school of fish out of closed waters into the edge of closed waters and the open waters where that boat could quote, unquote, ‘scoop them up real quick.’”
A fifth boat, the F/V Maranatha, was also said to be present. Authorities say the vessel was staged in the area and later used to transport some of the illegally caught fish. Troopers seized all 33,000 pounds harvested during the alleged incident, most of which were chum salmon.
“So while some people may look at a closed water case and think it’s not the end of the world,” Leath said, “it actually could literally be the end of a run in an area. In this case, there’s 33,000 pounds of fish that will not make it back up that creek that were supposed to make it back up that creek to spawn. That’s a big deal for us.”
Paul Roth is charged with driving salmon and commercial fishing in closed waters. Winslow and Mark Roth are charged with driving salmon in closed waters among other charges. Robert Roth is charged with failure to complete fish tickets and unlawful possession of commercial fish.
Charges were filed in Homer District Court, according to an online trooper dispatch.
The fishermen could be required to pay several thousands of dollars in fines. They could also face jail time or have their commercial fishing permits revoked.
“As well as the fish themselves that were seized, whether or not the value of those fish is forwarded and forfeited to the State of Alaska would also be considered in the court process,” Leath added.
Court documents were not available as of Tuesday afternoon, and it’s unclear when the men will see their first day in court.