Could the Covid virus cause the state Board of Fisheries call off its upcoming meetings?
The cycle from December through March focuses on Southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound subsistence, commercial, sport and personal use fisheries.
The Board will hold a listen-only teleconference on Sept. 16 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. to consider its meetings due to pandemic constraints. Glenn Haight is board executive director –
“As facilitators of these meetings we’re taking a look at what needs to get done in terms of mitigation measures for Covid, and it’s concerning as to whether we can do this safely.”
The fish board meetings involve more close interaction than most.
“The Board of Fisheries has a very interesting meeting platform where they take public testimony but they also do committees as a whole where they open the microphone to the entire audience.”
Stakeholders, staff and the Board also work closely to design substitute language for regulatory solutions.
“So there’s all those elements of board meetings that we’re just sort of puzzling our way out of how you would conduct all that in a virtual setting.”
The fish board asked for feedback in a survey this summer that drew over 200 responses. All are posted on the Board’s web page.
“Only about 20% or so wanted to hold in person meetings, but there was also a maybe, depending on the mitigation measures put in place. And a large percentage would favor postponing, and a good percentage favored at least trying to do some of it in a virtual platform. So it was across the board but really helpful.”
Haight says the board will hold its work session in mid-October by teleconference or virtually.
“And that’s done easily enough because it’s really report-driven and there’s not a lot of public interaction and we don’t take public testimony, for example.”
After that, he says, it’s unclear. Postponing to next year brings its own set of issues and butts up against the next meeting cycle: Bristol Bay and the Arctic.
“If we said we were going to do it all during the state’s next fiscal year that would be a ttremendous amount of work for the board, staff, advisory committees, the public – not to mention having adequate budget to accomplish all that. These are all questions I don’t have answers to yet.”
The Fish Board is accepting comments through Friday, September 11 to email@example.com
A live audio stream the teleconference will be available at Fish and Game’s Board of Fisheries website boardoffisheries.adfg.alaska.gov.