Setnet ban advances with ballot signatures
June 12, 2015
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – The move to ban setnets advances. I’ll tell you more after this –
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Anti-setnet advocates yesterday delivered 43,000 signatures to the Division of Elections in a move to put the question to voters on a 2016 ballot. The Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance, or AFCA, aims to ban setnets in six Alaska regions – Cook Inlet, Ketchikan, MatSu, Anchorage, Juneau and Valdez.
“I believe now more than ever that Alaskans want to end the devastating and outdated mode of commercial fishing called setnetting. It is time for setnets in urban Alaska to go away. It’s time for fish to come first. We must protect wild salmon stocks and banning setnets in nonsubsistence areas is the best way forward. I spent six years as a setnetter in Upper Cook Inlet and during that time I caught a lot of red salmon. However, my nets also caught sharks, birds, ducks, flounders, dolly vardens and a lot of king salmon. Setnets are decimating other species in Alaska.
Joe Connors is AFCA president, and a Kenai lodge owner and sport fish guide. Legality of the ballot measure has bounced around in the courts due to its allocative nature; it now awaits a ruling by the Alaska Supreme Court this fall.
AFCA legal counsel Matt Singer says setnets have been banned in several other states, and it’s not the first time a resource measure has been brought to the Alaska ballot box.
“Alaska has a long history of letting voters decide resource management issues at the ballot box. Alaskans first voted on a natural resources ballot initiative at statehood when they voted to ban fish traps. Alaskans went back to the ballot to vote to ban same day aerial wolf hunting because that practice was not in line with Alaska’s values.”
Despite claims of widespread support, AFCA has not involved the regions beyond the Kenai. Bob Penney —
“The start of this has to start someplace. It has in all states. It started with a couple of individuals or organizations and that’s the way it started here. We haven’t reached out for any further contributions anyplace until we pass the Supreme Court. Once that takes place we’ll be in a position to say ‘this is going to be on the ballot’ and that’s what we are waiting for.
Of AFCA’s $116,000 in campaign contributions, $97,000 was donated by Bob Penney. $200 came from Oregon, the rest from the South central region.
Penney has pushed for a Cook Inlet setnet ban for decades claiming conservation concerns, which he never applies to sport operators. But he insists his group strongly supports commercial fishing.
However, one mode of fishing does not fit all the rest – urban, non subsistence set nets.
The fish removed from the setnets would be reallocated by the Fish Board to sport anglers and other gears, such as seines or dipnets.
Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. (www.oceanbeauty.com) In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.