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The world's largest animal-rights group asked Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski on Friday to declare king salmon, the state fish, off-limits to fishing.
"We ought to protect king salmon in a manner appropriate to a state symbol - ensuring that they don't suffer needlessly at the hands of anglers," wrote Karin Robertson, project manager for the Norfolk, Va.-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' (PETA) Fish Empathy Project, in a letter faxed to the governor.
Robertson said fishing should be stopped because recent scientific research indicates that fish have acute senses, high intelligence, excellent memories and complex social behavior.
"This just proves you can find research to back up any crazy idea," said Becky Hultberg, the governor's spokeswoman.
Hultberg said the governor isn't interested in ending fishing for Alaska's most prized sport and commercial salmon species.
Instead, Murkowski "would like to see more king salmon on the dinner plates of folks on the East Coast," Hultberg said.
PETA promotes veganism - a dairy- and meat-free lifestyle.
According to PETA, emerging evidence about the cognitive abilities of fish - including their ability to feel pain - is paving the way for society to consider "hooking fish through the mouth and ripping them out of their natural environments with the same revulsion that we feel about cruelty to dogs or cats. Imagine hooking a dog or a cat through the mouth with a large hook and dragging them behind your car," Robertson said in her letter.
A couple of people in Southeast Alaska's commercial fishing industry contacted Friday wouldn't dignify PETA's request with a response. But after learning the basis of the group's argument for ending the fisheries, Juneau salmon troller Mark Stopha had a quick riposte.
"I only catch the stupid ones," Stopha said. "I wouldn't be able to catch the smart ones, anyway."
"I'm trying to weed out the gene pool," he added.