Fish Radio

Fisheries face total shutdown from lawmaker budget impasse

May 26, 2016

Alaska Legislature

Alaska Legislature

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch. No budget by Alaska lawmakers could mean no fishing. More after this —

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If Alaska legislators can’t agree on a budget by June 1, all state workers will be on notice for layoffs starting July 1.    That includes 750 full-time and seasonal workers in the commercial fisheries division. Scott Kelley is division director

The word that comes to my mind is catastrophic. We’re pulling all of our enumeration projects, sending all of our people home and we’re done.  

Right now, instead of managing and planning for fisheries, staff is preparing to pull salmon counting weirs, towers and sonars, says Kevin Brooks,  deputy commissioner for the Department of Fish and Game.

Where Fish and Game differs from most departments is we have staff in remote locations around the state not connected by road, we get them out there by boat or airplane. And for us to have an orderly shutdown on the 30th we’ll have to start a couple weeks prior to that pulling weirs out of the water and closing cabins and field camps where we have our staff stationed for three to four months every summer. Getting those things buttoned up and pulling them back to a duty station by June 30 so we can give them a lay off and close the doors on the first of July.  

Brooks says it will be business as usual while they can. But, as salmon fisheries get underway across the state  managers are closely watching the calendar

   That’s where it’s going to get tough for us because around the 15th of the month we’re gonna go is there a deal, is one imminent, do we start pulling things out now. There’s going to be point of return for us as far as getting something pulled out of the water. And in many cases they will have just put it in a few weeks prior. It’s kind of mind boggling  

Simply put, if Alaska lawmakers can’t resolve the budget in time, it will cancel salmon season.

Where you’re actively managing Inseason and looking at daily catch statistics and things like that, I think there’d be foregone harvest for sure .  

Of course, other fisheries besides salmon will be affected, including summer crab fisheries from Southeast to Norton Sound, cod, other groundfish and more.

We have to think more about a hard shutdown on July 1.  

Brooks says Fish and Game is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

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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.