The commercial fisheries division is in line for a slight increase to its $69 million operating budget that will benefit projects around the state.

The budget, plus a nearly one million dollar increment, added by Representative Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan, was passed by Alaska  lawmakers.

“The amount is the same, the projects are the same, but the house version had them in our base budget and the senate finance version has them as one time increments.”

Scott Kelley is commercial fisheries division director.

The extra million will be spent on 11 projects in four regions – Southeast, Central, Westward and the AYK (Arctic-Yukon-Kuskoswim).  The biggest project targets declining Chinook salmon.

“The biggest project is a juvenile Chinook northern marine survey that we’ve got going in the Bering Sea that is really interesting. It’s a $300,000 project. Almost the first thing I get asked at meetings around the state is what’s going on with king salmon and that particular project looks at what’s going on in the early marine which is where we think these mortality events are most affecting the species.”

Other projects back on the funding track include Southeast and Togiak herring, westward salmon weirs, Southeast sablefish and Prince William Sound Tanner crab.

Kelley says one thing cut from the commfish budget was nearly $400,000 for the unpopular test fishing, where a portion of fishermen’s catches were used to help cover management costs.

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“We don’t need to test fish because we got the GF. I view that as a very positive development.”

The budget still awaits final approval but Kelley was confident in a good outcome.

He credits Governor Walker –

“Yes, I do believe that the governor is quite supportive not just of the commercial fisheries division but the dept. of fish and game in general. Quite strongly ,actually.”

Kelley also praised United Fishermen of Alaska and other fishing groups and individuals for going to bat for their industry.

“They’re advocating for their industry has been extremely beneficial for the division and greatly appreciated actually.”