High court tosses proposed commercial set-net ban

The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Alaska’s commercial set-net fishermen have the same right to harvest salmon as any other group. Set-net fishermen are relieved with the ruling.
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The Supreme Court was reviewing a proposed ballot proposition that called for a ban on commercial set-net fishing in all non-subsistence areas. The justices decided that initiative was unconstitutional because only the state legislature and the Board of Fisheries have the power to divide fish between different groups of fishermen.

Andy Hall is president of the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association and he’s also a set-net fishermen.

“The issue for us is, this is not only was it clearly an allocation. There’s no conservation in here. The claim is that this was an effort to conserve fish. This would’ve put fish into the river for other people to catch,” said Hall.

The Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance sponsored the set-net ban. In court documents the nonprofit called set-net fishing, “…an antiquated method of harvesting fish that indiscriminately kills or injures large numbers of non-target species.”

According to the Peninsula Clarion, the Alliance said in a press release they were disappointed with the ruling and would: “…press forward to promote fish conservation and encourage responsible management of our fisheries.”

Hall claims there is no evidence that fisherman on the eastside of Cook Inlet are damaging the resource. He says they target sockeye and they take 13 percent of king salmon that return to the Kenai River.

“Beyond that we don’t really catch other fish. They said we’re killing sea birds and I think they referred to sea mammals. It just doesn’t happen,” said Hall.

The Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance did not return a request for comment.