Some common questions regarding the upcoming ballot initiative.
Why this issue should be on the August 2016 Alaska primary election ballot. Is it legal?
The language in this ballot initiative application is clearly legal under Alaska statutes. Alaska has a long history of using ballot initiatives to exercise fish and game management rights. The Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance (AFCA) simply means to promote a thorough, public debate on this important conservation issue that impacts only the five urban, non-subsistence areas of the state; it is that simple. The initiative, as written, simply does not allocate any resource. It merely restricts a particular means of taking fish, which has clear precedent in Alaska law.
Isn’t this set net ban in the urban parts of Alaska really about allocating king salmon to the sport fishing industry?
This initiative is about conservation. Currently, set nets have the highest rate of bycatch of any fishing type in Alaskan waters. Bycatch is the unwanted marine creatures that are caught in the nets while fishing for another species. The Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance is committed to survival of fish stocks any time their future is in danger. Alaska voters will be able to cast a ballot on whether or not this gear type is an acceptable way to fish in urban parts of our state.
Why ban set nets in non-subsistence areas only?
Set nets are more appropriate for rural subsistence fishing because there is less pressure on the resource. However, in Alaska’s five urban areas, the time has come to do what eight other states have already done. For conservation’s sake, it is time for set nets to go.
Other gear types will be able to harvest the fish set nets catch, in a much more sustainable, safe manner.
Does AFCA support commercial fishing?
AFCA supports commercial fishing and the jobs and economic value the industry brings to Alaska. The majority of the businesses in the commercial fishing industry are vigilant in assuring fish stocks will continue in perpetuity. They are careful to maintain the long-term benefit of the commercial fishing industry. However, the fact of the matter is urban, non-subsistence set nets simply do not fit the mold of these other industries, and are doing far more harm than they are good. AFCA wants to see commercial fishing grow: we just one to ban one gear type.
Do set nets impact species other than salmon?
The nets also catch sharks, birds, ducks and flounder (and a lot of king salmon). Set nets are indiscriminate killers that catch everything swimming by. Set nets have the highest rate of bycatch of any commercial fishery allowed in our state's water.
Is this the first ballot initiative of its kind?
Alaska has a long history of using ballot initiatives to exercise fish and game management rights. Several laws, including a ban on fish traps and a ban on same-day aerial wolf hunting have gone to the ballot.
Over the last 25 years, many states have taken measures against commercial set nets after their fish stocks declined to dangerous levels. Texas, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, New York, and California have voted to ban commercial set nets, while Oregon and Washington have severely restricted their use. Fishing is a fundamental part of the Alaskan lifestyle, but continuing to use set nets is an irresponsible harvesting methods. The time to act is now.