Kenai River Sport Anglers Group Files Lawsuit
Over Setnet Initiative Decision

The Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance says it has filed suit in Alaska Superior Court in Anchorage, challenging a state decision to reject a proposed statewide initiative to ban commercial shore gillnets and setnets in non-subsistence areas.

The ban would include areas around Anchorage, including the Kenai Peninsula Borough and Matanuska-Susitna Borough, plus Fairbanks, Juneau, Valdez and Ketchikan.

Clark Penney, executive director of AFCA, said in an announcement today that his organization believes the decision of Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, on the advice of the Alaska Attorney General’s office, is contrary to Alaska law.

Penney said AFCA hopes for quick resolution of the suit, so they can start collection signatures, to put the initiative on the statewide primary ballot in August of 2016. Penney is the grandson of sport fishing advocate Bob Penney, a board member and financial backer of AFCA, according to a spokesman for the organization.
AFCA board chairman Bill McKay, a retired Alaska Airlines executive, said the lawsuit was “the right thing to do. We expect to win this case,” he said.

Treadwell based his decision on an opinion from the Alaska Department of Law that the proposed initiative is prohibited under the state constitution.

The Department of Law concluded, in part that, “were this type of initiative permissible, voters could continue to reallocate stocks to any fishery simply by eliminating specific gear or particular means and methods of catching fish – for example, the next initiative might propose to eliminate purse seining, trawling, dipnetting, or catch-and-release sport fishing in particular areas to increase harvest opportunity for other types of users.
“This would ‘prevent …real regulation and careful administration’ of Alaska’s salmon stocks, contrary to the purpose of the prohibition on initiative by appropriation,” the opinion said.

The Alaska Salmon Alliance, which represents seafood processors and commercial fishermen on the Kenai Peninsula, praised Treadwell’s decision. The Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association, which represents Kenai Peninsula commercial setnetters, had denounced the initiative earlier.