• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
4m 8s

Lt. Gov. rejects petition to ban set netters from urban areas

By Rhonda McBride 10:19 PM January 6, 2014

The battle over salmon allocation on the Kenai Peninsula will move to Anchorage starting Jan. 31

ANCHORAGE - Supporters of a petition to ban set net fishing call it a “conservation measure.” Opponents decry it as “ballot box biology.”

Despite the war of words, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell said his decision to reject the petition came down to one key issue:

“It would have an effect of allocating fish between user groups,” Treadwell said. “And that’s not allowed under the [state] constitution.”

Treadwell said he sided with a 12-page opinion from the Alaska Department of Law, which said the petition violates provisions in the Alaska Constitution, which strictly limits the allocation of public money and assets. Under the constitution, the state’s fish and game are considered assets.

In the opinion, the department said, “Were this type of initiative permissible, voters would continue to reallocate stocks to any fishery simply by eliminating specific gear or particular means and methods of catching fish.”

The opinion also expressed concerns about the petition’s impact on future allocation decisions.

“For example, the next initiative might propose to eliminate purse seining, trawling, dip netting or catch-and-release sport fishing in particular areas to increase harvest opportunity for other types of users,” the legal opinion said.

The petition, filed by Joseph Connors of Sterling, seeks to ban shore-based gill nets and set nets in “non-subsistence” areas. Connors is also president of the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance, a group promoting the petition drive.

Although the language of the petition does not specifically mention commercial Cook Inlet set netters, the department found them to be the main target of the initiative.

Set netters anchor their nets near the shore, where migrating king salmon concentrate as they return to their natal streams. Although set netters target red salmon, the kings run concurrently with the reds, so some kings wind up in the catch.

The incidental catch of kings, though sharply curtailed by recent fishing restrictions on set netters, has long been a source of anger and frustration for sport fishing groups, fighting to boost king salmon numbers.

The AFCA, through its public relations firm, said it was not granting interviews to discuss the lieutenant governor’s decision but questions could be emailed to members.

Connors said in an email the AFCA still believes the proposed initiative meets Alaska laws and is surprised by Treadwell’s rejection of the measure.

“We are reviewing the decision and looking at options including a legal appeal and modifying and refiling the petition,” said Connors in an email. “This is not over, that is for sure.”

Connors has 30 days to file an appeal.

“It’s never over,” said Joel Doner, a set netter who fishes on the eastern shores of Cook Inlet. “If you’re an east side set netter, it’s like everybody’s trying to put your head on a chopping block.”

Even though Doner agrees the controversy is far from over, he’s happy with the lieutenant governor’s rejection of the proposed ballot measure.

“Practically speaking, it would have cost a lot of money,” Doner said. “Both sides would have to run some sort of campaigning. So it would be expensive.”

Had the initiative passed, Doner said the impact would have been devastating to set netters.

“There’s 700 set net permits in Cook Inlet, so 700 small businesses, roughly 500 families would be out of work,” Doner said.

The Board of Fisheries allocates set net permits through a public process.

In its legal review of the initiative, the state Department of Law noted the measure would also undermine the board process, as well as the authority of the state legislature.

Although the AFCA argues the petition would not interfere with the Board of Fisheries or the legislature, groups like the Alaska Salmon Alliance, which represent commercial fishing interests, fear it would.

Most fishermen support the Board of Fisheries process, said Arni Thomson, director of the Alaska Salmon Alliance.

“If we need to make some changes in the process, I think some tweaks to the process can be made,” Thomson said. “But I think the Board of Fish process, overall, needs to be preserved. And I think it’s well grounded in the state constitution.”

Those fighting to ban set netting call it a wasteful and outmoded practice that jeopardizes sports and personal use fisheries, which they say have a bigger, overall impact on the economic health of the Kenai Peninsula.

The battle over salmon allocation on the Kenai Peninsula will move to Anchorage starting Jan. 31, when the Board of Fisheries will meet for 14 days to review more than 200 Upper Cook Inlet fisheries proposals. The meetings are open to the public and will be held at the Egan Center in downtown Anchorage.

Latest Stories

  • News

    Float plane flipped on Naknek Lake

    by Hannah Colton/KDLG on Jul 06, 21:02

    Three passengers and a pilot were rescued unharmed from a PA-22 float plane that flipped in Naknek Lake around 12:30 Sunday afternoon. The Piper was piloted by Mark Romo of Aleknagik. Katmai Chief Ranger Tom Betts says the plane landed on rough waters with strong winds from the east. “Generally on an east wind day […]

  • News

    Berkowitz writes to Secretary of the Army in effort to keep troops at JBER

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 06, 17:19

    As one of his “first official acts” as Anchorage’s new mayor, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz wrote a letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh, emphasizing the importance of the Fourth Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division (4-25) to the city and state’s economic and strategic futures. Anchorage’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), where […]

  • News

    Human jawbone discovered at South Anchorage park

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 06, 15:33

    The Anchorage Police Department is investigating the discovery of a human jawbone found in South Anchorage on Sunday. Around 6:45 p.m., APD was contacted by a woman who claimed to have found a human jawbone in “a wood line at a park,” along the 9400 block of Brayton Drive. According to the woman, it was […]

  • News

    Firefighter Combat Challenge comes to Anchorage

    by Jacquie Slater on Jul 06, 14:53

    For the second time in its 25-year history, the Firefighter Combat Challenge made its way to Alaska as part of the Fourth of July festivities in Anchorage. Challenge founder Dr. Paul Davis first brought the challenge here for the 50th anniversary of statehood. This year, he says he brought it here to celebrate the city’s […]

  • News

    Cosby said he got drugs to give women for sex

    by Associated Press on Jul 06, 14:11

    Bill Cosby admitted in a 2005 deposition that he obtained Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to young women he wanted to have sex with. He admitted giving the sedative to at least one woman. The Associated Press went to court to compel the release of the documents, and they were made public Monday. […]

  • News

    Starbucks says some drink prices to go up by 5 to 20 cents

    by Associated Press on Jul 06, 13:34

    Starbucks says it’s hiking prices again starting Tuesday, with the increases ranging from 5 to 20 cents for most affected drinks. The Seattle-based company also raised prices nationally about a year ago. A small and large brewed coffee will each go up by 10 cents in most areas of the country, Starbucks says. That would […]

  • News

    Operation Doghouse delivers 30 new homes over the weekend

    by Makayla Clark on Jul 06, 12:56

    On Sunday, 30 sled dogs got new houses, courtesy of the volunteer group Operation Doghouse. The Sockeye Fire swept through the Willow area in June, destroying homes in the area — including those of local mushers. Megan Ashe and a group of fellow Alaskans started Operation Doghouse, created to help the hundreds of the Willow-based dogs […]

  • News

    Missing couple found dead off Denali Highway in ‘dilapidated trailer’

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 06, 12:37

    A death investigation is underway after a couple was found deceased in a trailer off the Denali Highway Sunday. Friday evening, Alaska State Troopers received a report of a man and woman missing from a campsite near Mile 79 of the Denali Highway, near the Susitna River Bridge. “Initial responding troopers found evidence suggesting an […]