Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance

Protecting Alaska's Fish.


To conserve fisheries in urban areas of Alaska for all its citizens.

Initiative Against Commercial Set Nets:
Protecting Alaska Fish In Urban Areas

Restricting the commercial use of set nets in Alaska’s urban areas isn’t about attacking or competing with commercial fishermen. It’s about managing our fisheries in a sustainable way and protecting fish for future generations.

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Commercial set nets indiscriminately catch any fish that passes upstream, including species that are threatened or in decline. When non-targeted species are caught, these fish are considered by-catch and legally cannot be sold or used, thus going to waste. In fact, set nets have the highest rate of by-catch of any fishing method allowed in Alaska, and they also have unacceptably high rates of mortality for fish that somehow escape the netting. 

Over the last 25 years, several 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 prohibited commercial set nets, while Oregon and Washington have severely restricted their use. Alaska prides itself on being a world model for sustainable fisheries management, yet we still allow the use of this indiscriminate and wasteful harvest method. It is time that we take this important step in protecting our fish for future generations. 

The Initiative

AFCA has launched a campaign to seek voter approval of an initiative banning the commercial use of set nets in Alaska’s urban areas. Set nets in urban areas are the only commercial harvest method that this initiative opposes.

AFCA will gather the necessary signatures and approvals to qualify the initiative for the primary election ballot in August 2016. This allows more than 2 years of public discussion on the issue. 

Urban areas are defined as the state-designated non-subsistence areas immediately around Anchorage (including the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the Matanuska Susitna Borough), Fairbanks, Juneau, Valdez and Ketchikan (see map). If voters approve the initiative, commercial set nets in these areas would be prohibited. Personal use fishing, such as dip net fishing, will not be affected. As Alaska's population grows, the state may designate new locations as urban, non-subsistence areas as appropriate. 

This initiative is not about allocation of fishery resources to different user groups. It’s about protecting Alaska’s fisheries and ending the use of an indiscriminate, wasteful harvest method in Alaska.  

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November 6, 2013: AFCA submitted the initiative to end the use of commercial set nets in Alaska's urban areas to Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell, along with 200 signatures. 

January 6, 2014: Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell rejected the initiative, arguing that the initiative is about fishery allocation rather than conservation. 

January 22, 2014: AFCA filed a lawsuit in Anchorage Superior Court to challenge the decision to disallow the initiative on the ballot. 

July 23, 2014: The Anchorage Superior Court ruled in favor of AFCA, deciding that the initiative to ban set nets in urban, non-subsistence areas is NOT a matter of allocation and that it is constitutional to allow Alaskans to decide this issue.

June 10, 2015: AFCA submitted the signatures of over 43,000 Alaskans to the Division of Elections. Pending the approval of the signatures, AFCA will participate in oral arguments at the Supreme Court in the decision to allow the set net initiative to go on the August 2016 ballot.

State of Alaska Ballot Initiative Petition Process

Click here to download ballot initiative.