Credit: Homer News

The commercial fisheries budget has so far dodged another bullet that would have removed millions more dollars from its budget.

A procedural action within the state’s capital budget called a ‘reverse sweep’ prevents dozens of program-specific savings accounts from being automatically drained into the budget reserve, as Governor Dunleavy aimed to do.

For the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, the savings in this case stem from license sales and test fishing receipts. It typically carries over and is integrated into the operational budget for the upcoming year.

ADF&G Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang.

 “From the ADFG perspective, there was an initial document that showed all of those different pots of money are sweepable in terms the failure of the legislature to provide a reverse sweep. However we have since learned that the actual budget that was signed by the governor and passed the legislature included language that makes the test fish receipts and the commercial crew member licenses and the CFEC licenses non sweepable.”  

Vincent Lang cited budget language signed by the governor that says “the amount appropriated for commercial fisheries includes the unexpended and unobligated balance on June 30, 2019 of ADFG receipts” for those programs.

Money from test fish receipts comes from sampling at places like Port Mollar, for example, where salmon are caught to gauge run strength and other data and then sold.

Crew licenses and Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission dollars from permits, vessel license and other fees go into separate savings accounts; more comes from General Fund Program Receipts, primarily from crew license sales.

“The test fishing receipts are on the order of $2.5 million, crew licenses at $2.5 – $3 million and those are built into our program for next year.  They really are built into the management of our fisheries. We use them for doing thing from crab and shellfish management to herring management, conducting aerial surveys, running weir and sonar operations. They’re built right into our program.”  

Vincent-Lang says the commfish division is working the details of a nearly one million dollar budget cut, which he calls “not life threatening.”

“There’s going to be some impacts on some weir operations and sonar operations but we we’ll be able to manage around them.”  

Impacts would have been far worse, he says, if the test fishing and license fees were swept away.

“Not all of that we would’ve spent in a single year but somewhere on the order of $2.5 to $4 million worth of unexpected budget impacts to the division of commercial fisheries.”