- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) - Dozens of fishermen from two villages on the Lower Yukon River are demanding Maserculiq Native Corporation fix the villages’ broken ice machine, which has impeded their business.

About 48 commercial fishermen in Marshall and Russian Mission rely on the ice machine. Some have already missed out on several commercial fish openings since the machine’s compressor went out two weeks ago, KYUK-AM reported (https://bit.ly/2at1cXB).

Maserculiq owns the machine, but has not paid the $15,000 needed to get it fixed. Fishermen and shareholders are expected to meet with the native corporation to urge them to address the problem.

Marshall commercial fisherman Leonard Fitka Sr. has missed two fishing openings since the machine stopped working, and has been boating 4 ½ hours to fetch ice.

“Fishermen are working harder, staying up longer, (spending) more time away from family. It’s hurting the economy,” Fitka said.

Since the machine broke, Marshall fishermen have been forced to stop fishing altogether or boat the 60 miles back and forth to get ice from St. Mary’s-based Boreal Fisheries. Fishermen in Russian Mission have to travel even further.

Boreal owners Randy and Edna Crawford said they can buy chum from fishermen, but only with the right ice.

“It has to be flake ice,” Edna Crawford said, “because that’s the only way you’re going to keep the temperature of the fish down, especially with the weather we’ve had over here.”

Myron Edwards, a commercial fisherman in Russian Mission, has weighed his options and said he doesn’t think he will make a profit by making the journey to Boreal for ice.

“We’re not too sure how we’re going to do this,” Edwards said. “Some of us don’t have enough money to pay for gas to pitch in for one boat to go all the way up to Boreal to pick up ice.”

Maserculiq’s CEO and board members did not respond to messages left by KYUK.

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