Judge allows set-net ban initiative to move forward

A superior court judge has ruled in favor of an initiative to ban commercial set netting for salmon in urban areas.

Earlier this year, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell blocked the initiative sponsors from collecting signatures in their effort to appear on the ballot. The decision was based on a recommendation from the Department of Law that the measure would qualify as an unconstitutional appropriation. The state also argued that such an initiative would count as an allocation to sportfishermen and that it would erode the authority of the Board of Fisheries.

Superior Court Judge Catherine Easter dismissed those arguments, finding that the initiative does not qualify as a give-away program and that it is a permissible regulatory measure.

The Department of Law is currently reviewing the decision to see if an appeal is appropriate. The Division of Elections will begin preparing signature booklets in the meantime.

The initiative is being sponsored by the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance, with the aim of getting it on the 2016 ballot. It is backed by key sportfishing interests, including real estate developer and major political funder Bob Penney. The group argues that set net gear should be prohibited to reduce the number of king salmon taken by the commercial sector.

The measure would shut down the commercial set netters who operate on Cook Inlet, the only region in the state that would be practically affected by the ban.

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