Alaska set-net fishermen sue over fishery closure

Published on
August 5, 2022
Commercial beach nets set for salmon along the Cook Inlet near Kenai City, Alaska

Set-net fishermen in Cook Inlet, Alaska, U.S.A. have sued after having their season cut short.

The lawsuit, filed in mid-July by the Cook Inlet Fishermen's Fund against the state of Alaska, came after the set-net fishery was ordered to close on 17 July, 2022, due to concerns over their catch of king salmon in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, according to Alaska Public Media.

King salmon escapement in both rivers has been extremely low in recent years and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game ordered the closure to preserve king salmon stocks, which have declined in recent years. This was the fourth year in a row set-net fishermen faced an early closure to their season, and this year’s closure was an especially difficult blow to fishermen because it meant they missed out on most of the season’s sockeye salmon run.

In their complaint, the fishermen said the closure effectively allocated salmon catches to other fisheries at their expense. The suit demands the Alaska Board of Fisheries set clearer markers to determine when their fishery will be shut down.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang expressed disappointment the suit was filed but said he is confident in the correctness of his agency’s decision, as it followed the Alaska Board of Fisheries plan and guidance for managing the fishery, he told Alaska Public Media.

In 2019, the Cook Inlet Fishermen's Fund filed a still-ongoing lawsuit on behalf of set-netters arguing Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy had favored recreational fishermen at their expense, and the group was also a plaintiff in a successful federal lawsuit after much of Cook Inlet was closed to driftnet fishermen in 2021.

Photo courtesy of Alisa Metzler/Shutterstock

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