• 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

  • DayBreak

    ‘Shop with a Cop, Shop with a Firefighter’ yields extra money to feed families

    by Daybreak Staff on Dec 22, 9:16

    Anchorage’s men and women in uniform suited up to help kids from local homeless shelters find gifts for their families as part of the 15th annual “Shop with a Cop, Shop with a Firefighter.” “They teach us a lot about the giving spirit. Most of the time you have to kind of coerce them to […]

  • Sports

    Hundreds of skiers gather for Besh Cup

    by KTVA Sports on Dec 22, 7:56

    More than 300 skiers competed in the second race of the ConocoPhillips Besh Cup Series Sunday afternoon. The first race was a sprint that took place at Kincaid Park on Saturday. Racers were divided into divisions ranging from 18+ to U8. The junior skiers were racing for a chance to qualify for the Junior Nationals […]

  • News

    Canadian mine near Alaska border wins approval

    by Associated Press on Dec 22, 7:51

    The Canadian government is allowing a proposed open-pit mine near the southeast Alaska border to advance. Canada’s Ministry of the Environment on Friday found the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects when mitigation measures are taken into account. The project, known as the KSM, is in northwest British Columbia. It […]

  • Weather

    Daybreak weather, Dec. 22

    by Brett Shepard on Dec 22, 7:43

    Cloudy skies today in Southcentral with occasional rain and snow showers. In Anchorage we could see 1 to 3 inches of snow today and into tonight. In the Southeast skies will be cloudy with rain showers and patchy fog. In the Interior skies will be mostly cloudy. On the North Slope skies will be mostly […]

  • Sports

    Seawolves cruise past Sharks for 12th straight win

    by KTVA Sports on Dec 22, 7:12

    The UAA women’s basketball team advanced to 12-0 with a 109-83 win over Hawaii Pacific Sunday night. Jenna Buchanan led the Seawolves in scoring with 21 points. The Sharks looked like they might be able to hang with the Seawolves early on, tying the game at 15 with 13:33 left in the first half, but […]

  • Crime

    Ketchikan resident comes home to find man with gun

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Dec 22, 6:53

    A home invasion resulted in a standoff between an Alabama man and troopers in Ketchikan early Sunday morning. At around 4:45 a.m., the Alaska State Troopers in Ketchikan responded to a report of a burglary and assault at a residence near Mile 6 of the South Tongass Highway, according to an online AST dispatch posted […]

  • On-Air

    VOTE: KTVA’s Teacher of the Semester

    by Daybreak Staff on Dec 22, 5:30

    So far this year KTVA has announced 11 “Teacher of the Week” award recipients. Now that half of the 2014-2015 school year has come to an end, we’re letting you choose the “Teacher of the Semester.” Discover more about each of the candidates below, then cast your vote at the bottom of the page. *Caroline […]

  • Crime

    Soldotna woman with 3 kids in car arrested for DUI

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Dec 21, 18:13

    A woman is in custody after she was pulled over Saturday night on the Kenai Spur Highway for driving impaired with children in the vehicle. At about 9 p.m., the Alaska Bureau of Highway Patrol responded to a REDDI report of “an intoxicated motorist with children in the car,” according to an online AST dispatch posted […]