United Fishermen of Alaska is closely tracking fish related actions by Alaska lawmakers during the early weeks of the legislative session, and things are already moving fast.

“I was anticipating a somewhat slow start, but they’re organized and they’re diving right into these issues and taking these bills up. And so there’s lots of opportunities to participate.” 

Frances Leach is UFA director.

UFA is strongly backing a bill (HB 35) that would resolve a conflict of interest fix at the state Board of Fisheries which oversees commercial, sport, subsistence and personal use fisheries.

 “One of the reasons why they’re chosen for that board is they may have a regional expertise or they may have a user group expertise. And so we want them to be able to participate and lend that expertise, not vote, but participate in deliberations to provide clarification to other board members who may not be as familiar with that region or fishery.”

Another fast moving measure (HB 85 and SB 145) aims to give boat owners a break from having to register it in person at a DMV. It was part of a well-intentioned Derelict Vessels Act that went awry.

“So we do support the concept of the bill. But we are also really pushing for this exemption  because we already register our boats through CFEC (Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission)  and they have all the details that would be going to the DMV anyways, and they’re both state managed databases, so it’s kind of like reinventing the wheel and just causing more work. “

Allowing Alaskans to transporting live crab (HB 203) already is getting hearings.  Live crab is the most lucrative market and has UFA’s strong backing.

 “As the statutes currently stand we’re not able to transport red king crab, Tanner  crab and Dungeness live via ground. So this bill would make it so that could happen so that we could take  and ship them live at the ground. It would open up some new avenues, I believe.”  

UFA also strongly backs bills supporting Alaska’s mariculture industry and a sound fisheries budget.

Leach says at the group’s annual meeting Feb. 25-27 in Juneau UFA will solidify positions on many more fish measures coming before lawmakers, including proposed tax credits for cod and pollock fisheries (SB 130) and a push for a personal use priority above all others (SB 99).

UFA provides easy to follow line ups of fishing industry related bills to its members with ways to listen in and provide testimony on any issue.

United Fishermen of Alaska is the nation’s largest fishing trade group with 35 member groups, from small skiff fisheries to the largest at-sea processors.