By Scott Christiansen
There’s an established fishery war on the Kenai Peninsula that heated up in recent weeks on two battlefronts: politics and news media. The feud is yet another struggle over gear type and licensing, the type of controversy that’s become more common as Alaska fisheries get more popular and the state gathers more “stakeholders” while Mother Nature and the hatcheries stubbornly refuse to make certain every stakeholder gets precisely the fish — or freezer full, or paycheck — they want out of their fishery. This particular feud is at least three decades old and pits commercial sport fishing guides and their clients against set net fishermen on the Kenai Peninsula. The sport fishers eye a particular prize: getting more trophy-sized king salmon upriver. The set netters have a prize, too: just keeping their jobs.
On the political front, a new group called Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance, Inc., has announced it will launch a statewide ballot initiative to ban commercial set netting in areas the group deems “urban,” naming Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula, Valdez, Fairbanks, the Mat-Su, Juneau and Ketchikan. They want Alaskans to vote a targeted group of commercial fishermen out of business, calling set nets “indiscriminate killing machines” in their initial statements when the ballot initiative was announced the first week of November. The conservation alliance has longtime sport fishing activist Bob Penney on its board.
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