Gov. Mike Dunleavy                                                    Credit: Matt Buxton, The Midnight Sun 


Governor Dunleavy has created an Alaska Bycatch Review Task Force “to explore the issue of bycatch and provide recommendations to policy makers.”

The Administrative Order came on the heels of last week’s special legislative hearing on bycatch convened by the House Fisheries Committee.

The 13-member task force will include a mix of state officials, fishery managers, commercial and sport fishermen and others. Their mission is to  “Study what impacts bycatch has on Alaska fisheries” and “make valuable recommendations to help better understand and address the issues of bycatch.”

“Isn’t it a little late for that? “Shouldn’t we have had a task force to make recommendations to the state (NPFMC) voting member long before this?”  

Fish Committee member Kevin McCabe of Big Lake called out Dunleavy’s mixed messages.

“He’s very concerned about  Joe Biden meddling in the state’s resources. Well, here we have the federal government meddling in our resources for years and we are just now waking up to it. It’s a shame if you ask me.” 

Representative Sarah Vance of Homer also was not impressed with the talk of “more studies.”

“We can always have more information but we need results. How long are we going to wait as fish are literally thrown overboard until we make a decision that moves us to good stewardship?” I’m wanting results.”

Vance and McCabe also criticized the State’s lack of position on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s upcoming plan to vote on options to reduce halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea bottom trawl fleet.

Representative Vance –

“The topic of Abundance Based Management has been going on for at least six years within the NPFMC  and for the administration two weeks out from the decision to not verbalize the alternative they support is disappointing. We want definitive answers and actions and policy direction from the Administration.” 

Representative McCabe –

“There are facets of this we don’t understand and that’s my question: why don’t we understand this after six years? Why is the state just now waking up?”  

Dunleavy’s Administrative Order takes effect immediately and will sunset on Nov. 30, 2022.  Once the bycatch task force is formed it will meet monthly “at a minimum.”

 Applications are being accepted now.