Fish Radio

Test fishing covers budget shortfalls

April 27, 2016

Port Moller Facility Credit: Gary Johnson

Port Moller Facility
Credit: Gary Johnson

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch–Test fisheries fund budget shortfalls. More after this-

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In the face of budget shortfalls, Alaska legislators are putting the onus on fishermen to cover the costs of  going fishing.    

We don’t like to catch fish or crab or anything just for money but in this climate we’re having to look at that long and hard.

Scott Kelley is director of Commercial Fisheries for the Dept. of Fish and Game.

When we came up with a plan to come up another $250,000 of revenue from Bristol Bay from test fishing – that was sockeye that could’ve been caught by industry and instead going into department contract vessels and things like that. That didn’t go over very well for reasons I totally understand.

Test fishing is typically done by Fish and Game chartered vessels to assess stocks and run strength. Now contracts are cut with local processors.

 The legislature cuts the budget and says Bristol Bay can catch fish with a private contract with a processor and use that money to pay for operating expenses like in river test fish projects or towers or port Moller test boat. 

 Tim Sands is Bristol Bay area manager.  Fishermen this summer would have to catch up to 1.8 million pounds of sockeye to cover those costs, he says, at a fraction of the going price.

Typically, the price paid to the state is some fraction of the regular commercial value of the fish because the processor has to pay the fishermen and the state and they have to make money. 

Last year the test fishing price was 30 cents a pound –  split between fishermen and the state. This year’s contract for $250,000 was covered by the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, a group funded by fishermen with a tax on their catches.  Sands says a tax on fishermen is exactly what the test fishing is.

It drives me nuts because it is so inefficient. They could have a .25 percent tax in Bristol Bay and raised all the money we needed last year.  Nobody likes taxes. But taking fish away from the fishermen before they catch them is just as much of a tax as taking a little bit of money out of their pocket after they catch the fish, but at least they can write that tax off.

Costs to Bay fishermen next year, Sands says, could reach $400,000. Division Director Scott Kelley said  test fisheries also will be used in several regions to raise money for the state, including a  $200,000  tab for Southeast salmon seiners   to cover costs for  aerial  surveys.

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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. ( In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.