Backers of initiative to ban set-netting misleading public

These must be exciting times for the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance. If their campaign is successful, they will use Alaska voters to try to end the careers and lifestyles of some of our most historic Kenai Peninsula families.

As the AFCA soldiers work frantically around the state to gather the necessary signatures needed to get this setnet ban before the voters, there is no requirement to be truthful or honest in their quest to get people to sign the petitions.

Using buzzwords like “curtains of death” and “devastation of bycatch,” it will not be hard to gather signatures from prospective voters that have little or no knowledge about Alaska fisheries issues. Petition signers and eventually voters may simply think they are doing the right thing in helping to eliminate “evil set-netting.”

At the heart of this issue is Kenai River king salmon. While king salmon stocks state wide are experiencing a down cycle, Kenai River kings have a more troubling problem. The historically large kings seem to have been eliminated and what remains are a disproportionate number of immature small males called jacks.

What’s most troubling about this whole issue is that the sponsors and supporters of this set-net ban initiative drive, AFCA, KRSA, KRPGA, which are Kenai River guide groups, made their careers catching Kenai River king salmon right where they have returned to spawn. Their main target was the “biggest” of the kings, the historically giant females that spawn in the main stem of the Kenai River — the ones that are now mostly gone.

As these trophy sized fish began to disappear, hooking and releasing was allowed, which continued to stress the ones that remained. Claiming the noble high ground of “turning fish loose and not killing them,” guides claimed their hook-and-release actions caused no harm to kings, while the evidence actually shows quite the opposite to be true.

It’s crazy that the goal of this initiative is to eliminate set-netters so the guides can get back on the river in full force and continue to target spawning kings. Most of us that live here on the Peninsula understand exactly what’s going on here. It will be much easier, however, to fool voters from other parts of the state — Anchorage, Mat-Valley, Fairbanks.

I would encourage everyone to visit the webpage of the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance http://www.akfisheries.org/about-1-1/, and see who the board members are. Read their mission statement and the testimonials. These folks call themselves our neighbors, but they are certainly not our friends.

Go to Kenai River Sportfishing Association, http://www.krsa.com/, and see who the board members are. See what they are saying about our set-netter neighbors.

It’s up to us that live here on the Peninsula to “out” these guide groups for what they are and to figure a way to derail their agenda . Their vision of the future does not include most of the rest of us — the ones that feel responsible for protecting the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers and the salmon that return there.

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