The recent efforts by the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance Inc. (AFCA Inc.) to push for a ballot initiative that would effectively eliminate set gillnetting from Cook Inlet are deeply concerning to me. As a person engaged in Cook Inlet fisheries, I recognize and respect the contributions of my fellow fishermen and women, whether they be economic, cultural, or social. Setnetters, just like most Cook Inlet fishers, are members of my community. They are our neighbors, they are business owners, and they are important harvesters of salmon. It would seem that we are experiencing a period of low abundance with our king salmon. Why that is, I don’t think anyone can be certain. However, making the rash call for the elimination of an entire fishing group is not an appropriate response.
With all the talk about this ballot initiative, one piece of the group’s original press release really struck me. The AFCA Inc. and Kenai River Sportfishing Association are going to be holding a “kick off party” in celebration of this effort to eliminate the livelihoods and fishing participation of more than 400 families on the Kenai Peninsula. I am appalled by this party and the message it sends. Further, I am shocked at the suggested “corporate donation” of $1,000 — imagine what true conservation efforts these funds could be supporting! This party is blatantly disrespectful to setnetters and all Alaskans who think we can share our fish resources, as is the ballot initiative itself. My fellow Alaskans, I implore you to please spend your evening and money more appropriately. As for me, I wouldn’t attend or spend a Penney at a party like that.