The budget for Alaska’s commercial fisheries division will face no cuts for the upcoming fiscal year, assuming it makes it through the Legislature.

“The governor’s proposed budget, the total amount that went into the legislature is at about $72.8 million, which is a slight increase from the FY21 approved budget. And most of that increase is due to our personnel services, cost increases through cost of living increases and things like that, that are funded by the administration generally. And also some of it from additional federal funds for training and things like that. So we’re looking pretty good for FY22 compared to past years.

Sam Rabung is director of the commfish division, the largest within the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, employing just over 640 full, part-time and seasonal workers.  He says he’s reassured by the budget outcome.

 “Yeah, we’re really pretty relieved about it. Because we feel like we’ve been cut pretty close to the bone and any additional significant cuts would impact fisheries directly. We wouldn’t be able to do some of the assessment projects required to manage our fisheries. So we would have to either close or severely restrict fisheries. And I think everybody understands that.”

Another bonus to the current budget – reopening of the Fish and Game office at Wrangell, which was not funded for last year.

Rabung credits the Dunleavy Administration for now understanding that Alaska’s fisheries pay their own way.

“We’re absolutely encouraged by that. You know, it’s not unique to just this administration. There’s been a lot of administrations that come in without knowing that commercial fisheries as an industry pays more into the general fund than we get out as a division to manage it. And because we just don’t advertise that, it doesn’t get talked about much. Everybody knows about oil, because we get a dividend. But commercial fisheries as an industry obviously pays more into the general fund and other things like licenses, fees, taxes, assessments, all those things add up to significantly more than we are allocated out of the general fund.”

Rabung adds that most Alaskans don’t know that the comm fish division also manages subsistence and personal use fisheries. It also manages some fisheries in federal waters. And because fish are migratory and cross jurisdictional boundaries, staff also are involved in the research and policy making activities of the Pacific Salmon Commission, the Joint Canadian/US Yukon River Panel and several other interstate and international fisheries bodies.

We’ll have more news on the commfish division in upcoming programs.