Fish Radio
Fisheries budget shows increases, for now
December 21, 2016

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch….Next year’s commercial fisheries budget  could get a break. More after this –                   budget

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Alaska’s commercial fisheries division gets a rare break under Governor Walker’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year that begins next July. Including all funds, commfish shows a .3 percent increase for FY18 to $70.7 million. It’s a big relief after budget cuts over the past two years totaled 30 percent.

“Compared to what we saw the last two years this is a pretty good surprise this year to see it with a little bit of a plus up.”

Tom Gemmell is a numbers guru and director of the Halibut Coalition in Juneau.

 “All regions show increases – the components of the comm. fish budget that took hits were statewide fisheries management and the limited entry commission but all the regional offices had slight increases.”

Management offices in the Central, Westward and Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim regions show budget increases of less than one percent; Southeast’s proposed budget boost is nearly two percent. The proposed cut to the main management office in Juneau is .7 percent.

“The budget over the years has gone back and forth between what’s run out of the central office in Juneau and  what’s run by the regional supervisors. Over the past couple of years they’ve tried to identify project more in the specific regions. However there still are some statewide things like the genetics laboratory that we have to fund. “

The governor’s budget also proposes to cut back on so called cost recovery or test fishing in which fishermen’s catches are used to fund critical management programs. Those receipts totaled nearly $3 million in FY16.

“There was a big increase in test fisheries the past couple of years – the proposed budget for FY18 only has about a $15,000 increase so that seems to have stabilized.”

The state’s lone seafood marketing arm – the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute – is bankrolled primarily by the fishing industry.  Lawmakers have put ASMI on notice that state funds will be zeroes out by 2019.

“Although it doesn’t look like they’ll take a hit this year, I think next year we’re definitely going to see a phasing out of the general fund money. And that’s about one million dollars. “

While the early news is encouraging, next stop is the Alaska legislature.

“We’ve got the fish committee in the House to go through, resources, finance committees on both sides – eventually end up in a conference committee probably in late session to decide the final details. So there will be a lot of ups and downs over the next few months here.”

Gemmell believes it would be tough to make more cuts to an already  barebones budget.

Fish and Game management has taken a big hit the past couple of years, I think we’re at a point where if there is no management there is no science, and the managers have to be conservative and that’s basically reducing time and harvests with the net result being a loss in jobs for the harvesters and processors and in the communities. They’ve gotten all of the fat already and we’re down to bone so it would be very hard to cut the budget further without having dramatic impacts on fishermen.”

The Alaska legislature convenes on January 17. Find links at www.alaskafishradio.com

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods.  Ocean Beauty has contributed over 10 million meals to the U.S. Food Bank network, and is committed to ending hunger in America. www.oceanbeauty.com      In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.

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