Hundreds of boats are gearing up for the January start of some of Alaska’s largest fisheries in waters managed by the federal government from three to 200 miles offshore.

Meanwhile, the government shut down over Donald Trump’s demand for nearly $6 billion in funding for a border wall of “artistically designed steel slats” has sent hundreds of thousands of workers home.

Nine of the government’s 15 federal departments and several agencies were shuttered at midnight on December 21 and there is no end in sight. That includes the Commerce Department which houses NOAA Fisheries.

In an unusual first, no one at NOAA in Juneau could speak about the impacts a government shutdown might have on upcoming fisheries. All questions were referred “to the White House.”

An emailed response from the White House Office of Management and Budget said that, while “it can’t answer agency specific contingency questions,”  as it stands now, Alaska’s big winter fisheries will get underway on schedule.

Fisheries management activities including quota monitoring, observer activities, and regulatory actions are considered “essential activities” that will remain during the shutdown.

Alaska’s cod fishery opens on January 1, followed by pollock and various whitefish on the 20th.  No disruption is expected for those nor for ongoing crab fisheries.

The U.S. Coast Guard also will be at the ready for Alaska’s fishery openers. Nationwide, 42,000 Coast Guard will work without pay until a budget is passed.

Over the longer term, it’s disruptions to NOAA’s research that wreak the most havoc, said John Sackton at SeafoodNews.com.

Fish scientists involved in stock surveys and analyses, the foundation of Alaska’s fisheries, are furloughed due to Trump’s shutdown.

Gaps or lacks in data streams could halt catch allocations meted out over the year, or prompt more cautionary catches since the science would be lacking,

In Alaska, just over 100 fishery regulators are located in Juneau, 15 in Anchorage, one in Kodiak and two in Dutch Harbor. Another 100 or so are employed in fishery research labs in Seattle, Kodiak and Juneau.

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