Fish politics can be messy stuff. They’re complicated; they’re emotional, and there’s a lot of money involved. Now that a group with ties to the sportfishing lobby is trying to put the existence of the Cook Inlet setnet fishery to a vote, fish politics are being taken to their messy extreme.
When the initiative application was filed last week, commercial fishing groups were mostly quiet. Now, they’re issuing full-throated denunciations of the move to prohibit setnetting in urban areas. “Theatrics and political games” is how the United Fishermen of Alaska — or UFA — is describing it. The Alaska Salmon Alliance — another trade group — has called the initiative a “public relations scam” meant to pressure the Legislature into giving sport and personal-use fishermen more access to Kenai River king salmon.
Andy Hall directs the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association, and he thinks the initiative is more about allocation of fish than conservation.
“They’re down in the Legislature trying to get somebody kicked of the Board of Fish, or eavesdropping on the UFA annual meeting, or, you know, kicking off some initiative to put a bunch of people out of business. That’s not conservation,” says Hall. “Maybe they’re conserving an opportunity for themselves to partake of, but, boy, I don’t see any king salmon conservation.”