Fisheries could get corked due to budget stallMay 28, 2015
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Alaska’s fisheries could get corked due to the state budget stall. More after this –
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Next week more than 20,000 state workers could get 30 day layoff notices due to the Alaska legislature’s inability to pass a state budget. Workers would be off the job by July 1, at the start of the state fiscal year. It’s all happening at the heart of salmon season, and those and other state fisheries could get corked by the lawmakers’ inaction.
“There is some budget – but how we proceed through the fiscal year from July 1 is still what we’re working on. It’s about 27 or 28 percent of our normal amount. So there is some operating capital for us to work in the field, and do our management jobs and responsibilities.”
Jeff Regnart is director of Commercial Fisheries at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game.
This year has some record forecasts and those ex-vessel dollars are going to be higher than average. That means to me that we are going to be out there and we’re going to manage these fisheries. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have to make some changes, based on the fiscal climate but we’re going to make sure that we do our very best to have the tools so we can maximize the opportunity, maximize the catch in these fisheries. That, to me, is our main mission.
Regnart says the major focus will be on the ‘significant’ salmon fisheries, such as sockeyes at Bristol Bay and Southeast pinks.
“The salmon fishery is short. In the next three months we’ll all know what happened and it will all be over. It is compressed and we need to be able to respond to that. I can’t tell you that it will be exactly like what’s happened in the past few years; very likely, it would be different. But we’ll do our darndest to make sure we can make the calls necessary to provide access to that resource.”
Other salmon regions could feel more of a management pinch.
Kodiak, South Peninsula, North Peninsula, Cook Inlet, PWS, we can go around the horn and all those are significant fisheries to the state and the users and our plan is to put them in the water. We might have fewer enumeration programs, we might have to fly fewer aerial surveys, we might have fewer people at the front counters in some of our offices – all those are possibilities. But the essential function of allowing access to that resource in a sustainable way, we are going to try to preserve.
And state fisheries besides salmon could be put on hold.
“Other fisheries? I think there will be an impact across the board. We’re just going to make sure to put our resources where they make the most sense. Salmon, you got one chance and if you miss it, you miss it and you’re done until next summer. We very much are recognizing that. other fisheries that aren’t salmon that could be put off if it’s possible from a biological perspective and maybe taken at another time, we’ll look at that.”
Alaska’ fishery managers will continue to devise the best ways to use the funds available. Regnart says it will be a continuous work in progress.
“Whatever amount we have we are going to protect the resource, number one; and then allow access to harvest the surplus. When it comes to salmon, that’s our job.”
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Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. (www.oceanbeauty.com) In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.