Wednesday, January 8, 2014

State Says No Dice to Banning Setnets in Alaska

By Margaret Bauman

Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell has rejected an initiative brought by a Kenai Peninsula sport fishing group that would prohibit shore gillnets and setnets in non-subsistence areas of Alaska.

Treadwell cited the advice of the Alaska Department of Law, which called the proposed measure a prohibited appropriation under the Alaska Constitution.

Treadwell said his office had received input from the initiative sponsor, supporters and opponents, which was shared with the attorney general’s office. He said all parties were urged to work together with the Alaska Board of Fish to address their concerns about setnets and fisheries allocations.

Bill McKay, chairman of the board of the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance, and a retired senior vice president of Alaska Airlines, said he was extremely disappointed with the decision. Clark Penney, executive director of AFCA, said he was struggling to see the logic or legality of the decision.

The Alaska Salmon Alliance, which represents seafood processors and commercial fishermen on the Kenai Peninsula, applauded the decision. “We are elated by Lt. Gov. Treadwell’s decision to not certify this job killing measure,” said Arni Thomson, executive director of the Alaska Salmon Alliance.
“Though it was highly unlikely to ever pass, the setnetter ban would have instantly destroyed the jobs of more than 500 Alaska families who setnet to make a living. We are happy to see it dead on arrival.”
The alliance has 30 days to exercise their right for judicial review of the decision, but has not decided what to do yet, said Joe Conner, the charter service and lodge owner who is president of AFCA. 
Conner was traveling when the decision was announced on Jan. 6, and said in a telephone interview that he had not had a chance to read the related documents.

The Department of Law review notes that there are about 740 Cook Inlet setnet permits, of which about two-thirds are actively fished. By comparison, the state review said, about 250,000 sport anglers harvested fish in Cook Inlet and its drainages in 2012, plus thousands of Alaskans with personal use permits fishing in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers.

The Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association, which represents commercial setnetters on the Kenai Peninsula, earlier denounced the AFCAs initiative as “the latest incarnation of Bob Penney’s long running effort to put more than 720 families and small business owners who work in Cook Inlet’s setnet fishery out of business.”

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