ANCHORAGE – A conservation group is suing the state to put a proposed set net ban initiative to a vote.

The Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance (AFCA) filed the lawsuit Wednesday morning. It said Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell was wrong when he rejected the initiative earlier this month.

AFCA said set netters catch too many kings while they’re harvesting reds. That’s led to devastatingly low return numbers for kings, they said.

Members said the only way the fish will rebound is to ban set netting altogether.

“Set nets are appropriate for rural, subsistence fishing because there is no pressure on that resource,” said AFCA President Joe Connors. “However in the urban areas, the time has come to do what eight other states have already done. For conservation’s sake, it’s time for the set nets to go.”

Set netters said that would obviously wipe out the industry and put hundreds of families out of work.

Joel Doner said his grandfather’s been set netting in Cook Inlet since the 1950s and Doner and his father also depend on the livelihood.

He understands the need for conservation, but said an entire ban is too extreme.

“The health of all fisheries in Cook Inlet is only in my best interest and Alaska’s best interest for that matter,” Doner said. “But unfairly, greedily closing down one user group, it’s not right.”

Treadwell’s chief of staff issued a response only to say, “It would be inappropriate for the lieutenant governor to comment on this lawsuit.”

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