November 28, 1997 in City

Alaska May Seize British Columbia Boats Fishing Vessels May Be Taken As Part Of Lawsuit Over Blockade Of Ferry

Associated Press

Alaska may seize up to three British Columbia fishing boats this week in its lawsuit against salmon fishermen who blockaded an Alaska ferry, a fishermen’s union says.

The United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union said its lawyers were told the state would seek seizures this week, without any indication of when or where.

But a spokesman for the Knowles administration said Thursday from Juneau that he was unaware of any plan to move against fishing boats this week - just as the state was preparing to resume ferry service to Prince Rupert, where the blockade was staged.

“I’m not saying we intend to do it this week, but I’m not aware that we intend to at this time,” said Bob King, a spokesman for Gov. Tony Knowles.

King said Alaska has consistently claimed it would move against the boats - known as a maritime “arrest” - as it pursued a $3 million claim against British Columbia fishermen who blockaded the ferry Malaspina for three days in July.

That protest, which fishermen said was prompted by Alaska’s salmon harvest, stranded 300 passengers and led the state to delete the port from its ferry route.

The vessel Aurora is scheduled to depart Ketchikan on Thursday with an Alaska delegation on board and a welcome planned by Prince Rupert merchants.

King said that under Canadian law, parties in a pending civil lawsuit may arrest a fishing boat to restrict its use by an owner. The action is similar to a lien.

The union said it may respond with a demonstration of solidarity for the targeted fishermen, including chaining boats together to prevent their seizure.

Several boats already have been chained up at docks in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond to prevent their seizure.

John Young of the Fishermen’s Union called the threat a form of “renewed intimidation” by Alaska.

Alaska is suing about 200 British Columbia fishboat owners for the $3 million the state said it lost during the illegal blockade. The protest was staged at the height of this summer’s Canada-U.S. salmon dispute.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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