Starting September 30 and for 10 days, Homer will host federal stewards of Alaska’s fisheries for the first time since 1983.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council oversees more than 25 stocks in waters from three to 200 miles offshore, the source of the bulk of Alaska’s fish catches. Coming to Homer is part of an ongoing effort to engage more people in the decision-making process.

“Yeah, absolutely. The council certainly is interested in engaging more stakeholders, particularly from rural and Alaska Native communities, and by the Council, going to more coastal communities. It allows them more opportunity for effective input into the process.”    

Dave Witherell is Council executive director. At Homer, a first ever, informal “Intro to the Council” workshop will be held to make the fish policy making process less daunting.

“It’s quite a steep learning curve to understand all the ins and outs and goings on at a council meeting and what’s written in our analyses. And so what we’re trying to do is open it up so that someone that may not follow or live and breathe the council process can still participate. They don’t have to know all of the jargon and all of the meanings of every acronym. We’re trying to put it out there in plain language saying, this is what the council action is going to be doing at this meeting, his is how you might comment.”   

Plain language is also what you get on the revamped North Pacific Council website.  All postings of meeting agendas, document overviews and more are in a conversational style. Council IT specialist Maria Davis

 “Some of the topics are very complex. So distilling them down into two or three sentences may not be exactly what is happening, but it gives them a large overview. And that’s what I’m trying to get at with those. That’s what our staff is trying to get at with those high level overviews, if you’re interested, then you can go read the action memo, which provides the more background and then beyond that, you can read the analysis if you’re really interested in a lot of the detail.”

Searchable digital content from all meetings are included back to 2014. And one click lets you make or review all public comments.

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“So there’s committee meetings, planning meetings and council meetings, and you can filter in ways that you want. It’s so easy to find documents, and it’s so easy for the staff to upload their documents. There’s a public comment portal. So you can go back and read public comments, you can upload your public comments for committee meetings, and for council meetings. Under each agenda item, it’s really, really been a game changer as far as accessibility for the public.”

The North Pacific Council meets September 30 through October 9 in Homer.