Fish Radio
Stutes puts AK fisheries in legislative spotlight
January 12, 2017

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Fisheries are gaining more stature among Alaska lawmakers. More after this –

Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak chairs the AK legislature’s Fisheries Committee

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The Alaska Legislature’s Fisheries Committee had to turn away interested legislators this session, the seven seats filled so fast.

“Our fisheries committee is going to be busy this year. We intend to  educate not only legislators but the residents of the state of Alaska. I would venture to say that there is not one community in this state that is not impacted by fisheries in a positive way.”  

Representative Louise Stutes of Kodiak chairs the Fish Committee. She also is Majority Whip in a new bipartisan coalition that will lead the Alaska House when lawmakers convene next Tuesday. The new group takes House leadership away from Republicans for the first time in more than two decades.

No more budget cuts to commercial fisheries will be a Fish Committee priority. That push follows a 30 percent reduction over two years. Some dollars may be shuffled, Stutes says, to make sure they are targeted to maintaining ongoing fisheries.

“Such as weir counters – we need them in order to maintain a sustainable salmon fishery. There’s just no question about that. “

Stutes says work will continue on reorganizing the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. Also on the table is tweaking the formula that sets fees for permits in open access whitefish fisheries. That system has not been updated for more than 20 years.

“Right now if you have a 58 footer that can hold 200,000 pounds and you have a  125 footer fishing the very same resource in the very same area that can only carry 100,000 pounds – the 125 footer e is going to pay a much higher permit fee than the 58 footer that can out hold them. So it is just not a fair and equitable situation.”

Stutes, who is in her second term, believes Alaska’s seafood industry is gaining more attention for its contributions to the state. For several years now, one king salmon is worth way more than a barrel of oil

“In my opinion it is no less important than oil is. We have to look at it and treat it as such. The difference is, if we treat our fisheries appropriately they are renewable; oil is not.”

 The seafood industry is second in the revenues it puts into state coffers, more than $250 million in taxes and fees last fiscal year. Stutes says many don’t understand that half of those fish bucks go into the state general fund and are distributed at the whim of lawmakers.

Particularly coastal communities or communities where fish are landed. They are paying a 50% raw fish tax that goes directly into those communities. Those are dollars that the state is not putting in. Those dollars are supplied by the resource and the fishermen and the stakeholders. And for that not to be acknowledged is criminal.”

Louise Stutes represents Kodiak, Cordova and surrounding communities.  Find links to the Alaska legislature at our website –

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, an Alaska corporation proudly supporting Alaska’s coastal communities and the Alaskans who depend on fishing for their livelihoods and culture.    In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.