Fish Radio

Budget cuts crimp Togiak herring and more

April 26, 2016                            Budget cartoon, Chenault

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Fisheries will be crimped by budget cuts. Togiak herring takes it first.

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Next year’s budget which begins July 1st   has yet to be finalized by Alaska lawmakers, but fisheries are bracing for cuts adding up to nearly $10 million over the past two years.

With cuts of that magnitude, we are looking at spreading it across regions, including headquarters support for the regions, and across not just salmon, but herring, we’re cutting shellfish projects everything is on the table.  

 Scott Kelley is director of the Commercial Fisheries Division at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game.

One hundred nine projects were affected statewide in FY16  and another 65 are on the upcoming cut list.

 From the Southeast region for FY 17 we’ve cut the golden king crab observer project and we’re cutting a couple of different coho salmon evaluation projects. In the Central region we’ve  reduced time on the Nushagak weir  and in FY 16 we’ve cut a couple of towers.   In the westward region we’ve cut a major stock assessment on the Salmon River, Chignik crab research, herring management. At headquarters we are not going to fill three positions and we’ve cut back on our gene conservation lab.  

Money for herring management except for Sitka Sound was zeroed out in last year’s budget.  That was felt at the state’s largest fishery at Togiak when the fish arrived earlier than ever. No funds meant few flyovers to assess the run.

Just to open the fishery and manage it we need aerial surveys to find out when the fish show up. We have threshold biomass we are supposed to document before we open the fishery and that requires flying and looking at the area.

Tim Sands is area management biologist at Dillingham. The grounding prompted processors Silver Bay, Trident, North Pacific and Icicle Seafoods each put in $2,500 to fly surveys. The early run also precluded fish sampling which has worrisome implications for the future.

For us the bigger impact is that we can’t produce a forecast for Togiak herring next year because we didn’t do the sampling.     The data gap will cycle through our whole population estimate. Even if we were to start sampling again next year, Togiak herring live up to 12 plus years age classes so we’ll have that gap for 8 years at least.  

The lack of budget meant missed opportunities for fishermen further west at Good News Bay and Security Cove where there were herring buyers this year.  No surveys meant no fishery.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how test fisheries are being used to make up for budget shortfalls. Find links at

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.