UFA Update: December 31, 2015 – Special update

One item only:

Alaska Supreme Court denies initiative to ban urban commercial setnets

Alaska Dispatch News:

A ballot initiative that would ban commercial setnets in Alaska’s urban areas won’t be heading to voters anytime soon, according to the Alaska Supreme Court.
The state’s highest court Thursday overturned an Anchorage superior court decision that allowed the initiative to move forward.

The Supreme Court found that the lower court’s ruling erred in deciding that the initiative was a gear ban, not an allocation of resources.

According to the Alaska state constitution, ballot initiatives cannot allocate resources.
In its 22-page opinion issued Thursday, the court wrote that the superior court found setnetters were not a “distinct commercial user group” and that the legislature and board of fish would still “retain discretion to allocate salmon stock to other commercial fisheries.” The Supreme Court disagreed, concluding that setnetters are a distinct user group and that the initiative would allocate salmon to other types of fisheries…
Joe Connors, president of the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance, said he was shocked by the New Year’s Eve decision.

“To me, it’s a license now to kill everything that’s out there and nobody seems to be concerned about that,” he said in a phoneinterview Thursday.

But Jerry McCune, president of United Fishermen of Alaska, a commercial fisheries advocacy group, said had the Supreme Court approved the ballot measure, it would have set precedent for other groups looking to limit any resource extraction they disagree with, like oil and gas.

“Which would have been catastrophic for Alaska,” he said.
McCune said he and others against the ballot measure were relieved the Supreme Court had agreed with their position that the measure was an unconstitutional allocation of resources.

“I think we’ll take a deep breath right now and savor the moment that we don’t have to take an initiative on and spend a million dollars to defend the industry on vote,” he said in a phone interview.

Connors said the Alliance would regroup about next steps in working toward conservation, though he acknowledged that the Supreme Court decision renders the initiative dead…


Supreme Court tosses out setnet ban petition
Posted: December 31, 2015 – 10:54am
A ballot measure to ban setnet fishing in Juneau and Cook Inlet violates the Alaska Constitution and will not appear before voters next year, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled Friday.

In a decision announced on the last day of the year, the Supreme Court said the initiative would violate article XI, section 7 of the constitution. That section states that a referendum petition “shall not be applied … to appropriations.”

Because setnet fishing sites catch salmon almost exclusively, the court determined that banning them would amount to appropriating salmon to other fishermen….

AK Supreme Court Opinion (161k pdf): http://www.courtrecords.alaska.gov/webdocs/opinions/ops/sp-7073.pdf
(or see http://www.courtrecords.alaska.gov/webdocs/opinions/sp.htm and find under December 31, 2015.

For other case documents, see http://www.appellate.courts.state.ak.us/main.asp  and enter Appellate Case Number: S15662

Good fishing in 2016 from United Fishermen of Alaska
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web: www.ufafish.org (no hyphen)
 (907) 586-2820