Board of Fisheries meetings focused on Southeast Alaska, Prince William Sound and statewide shellfish have been postponed from this spring to the fall.  The Fish Board voted on Monday for the delay due to Covid virus concerns.  Board member John Jensen.

“I’m just basing on the most logical assumption that this year, this spring anyway is pretty much toast as far as how this COVID thing is going up and down, and one day it’s good and the next day it’s not. It’d be irresponsible to try and continue these meetings like we had planned.” 

The Board focus on regional issues every three years for commercial, sport, subsistence and personal use fisheries. The current lineup includes 79 proposals for Prince William Sound, 155 for Southeast and 42 for statewide shellfish issues.

The delay means back to back meetings for those regions this fall, possibly into next year, followed directly by fish issues at Bristol Bay, the Alaska Peninsula, and the Arctic/Yukon/Kuskokwim regions. No dates have been set yet for either round of meetings.

The shuffle could cost the Alaska Department of Fish and Game an extra unbudgeted $250,000. That would require a supplemental appropriation from the legislature, said ADF&G Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang –

 “As I think you heard from our directors, they’re a little worried about getting money to hold a board meeting but also having money for their staff to try to double up on board meetings next year given the lift it has. I’m supportive of trying to do this but I just want you to know at the end of the day that there’s going to be potentially some impact if we can’t get that money through the legislature, and number two there’s going to be some impact to board meetings as a result of divisional support attending those board meetings. But again we’ll do our best to try and power through that.”

Seafood Auction

Meanwhile, the status of unconfirmed Fish Board members is still being litigated. Governor Dunleavy insists his appointees can remain. But Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak says not so fast –

“Currently we have four sitting members, new members, and one old member, that have not been confirmed and they are making decisions and some of them just don’t have the experience. And they have the opportunity to make monumental decisions affecting people’s livelihoods.”

Stutes has filed a bill – HB28 – that would allow board members to participate but not vote until they are confirmed in a joint session.