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Alaska Fish Factor: Cut in State Funds Looms Over Fisheries Department

Sustainability Economics Politics +4 more

US - A nearly $12 million cut in state funds is on tap for the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game if state policy makers have their way. That was one early outcome of legislative House finance subcommittee meetings last week, as they wrapped up the first step in a budget process that will see cuts in agencies and programs almost across the board.

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According to Juneau Resources Weekly, the ADF&G budget reductions cut across all divisions with sport fishing facing the most personnel losses at 12 seasonal jobs. The Division of Habitat could lose $400,000; commercial fishing programs are set to lose five positions and an additional $2 million in general fund support.

Other fisheries related items include a 40% cut in the $7.5 million the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute receives in state funds, double what Governor Walker had proposed.

The JRW said that members of the Dept. of Commerce, Community and Economic Development subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Lance Pruitt (R-Anchorage), voted to cut $2.8 million from the ASMI budget. The state’s lone marketing arm is largely funded by self-imposed fees from the seafood industry. The committee recommended that ASMI increase those fees to support its global marketing efforts.

Other cuts proposed by the same committee include $600,000 for a mapping project by the Marine Exchange of Alaska to identify vessel tracking gaps in the Gulf of Alaska, Western Alaska and the Arctic. Also removed was a $187,500 grant to the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association.

The lawmakers recommended eliminating the Dept. of Environmental Conservation’s fish tissue studies that assure consumers that Alaska’s seafood is safe to eat.

Also on the chopping block: the Alaska Farm to School program run by the Dept. of Natural Resources. The small program promotes local use of farm and seafood products in state schools. Rep. Pruitt, who also chairs the DNR finance committee, advised cutting the program’s $180,000 in the upcoming school year.

On a lighter note – Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham has filed a bill to make August 10 of each year Alaska Wild Salmon Day.

It would “celebrate the enormous bounty that wild king, sockeye, coho, chum, and pink salmon bring to the state every year,” the bill says, and “may be observed by educational and celebratory events, projects, and activities.”

Fishing facts - What Alaska town ranks as #1 for total commercial fishing participation? Based on the number of fishing permits, crew licenses and skippers, Anchorage comes out on top.

Cordova is the leading homeport for 704 vessels, followed by Kodiak at 685, Sitka at 661 and Petersburg is home to 596 fishing boat.

Those are just a few of the findings in the latest seafood industry fact sheets provided by the United Fishermen of Alaska. The facts include well-documented statewide data; added new this year are breakdowns for the Nome and Wade Hampton Census Areas, as well as for Washington, Oregon and California, which rank as the top three states for nonresident fishermen in Alaska.

Even better – UFA includes a breakdown of how fishery taxes and fees add up to $250 million annually and benefit Alaskans who live far from the coast.

“Due to the wide range of state and federal agencies involved in fisheries, it is challenging to understand the many different positive impacts and revenues that Alaska's fisheries provide throughout the state and beyond. UFA’s fact sheets help consolidate this information and make it easy to understand,” said Julianne Curry, UFA executive director.

Some highlights for 2015: the seafood industry remains Alaska’s largest private sector employer creating over 63,000 direct jobs throughout the state.

  • Alaska resident active commercial fishing permit holders: 7,0891
  • Percent of Alaska resident active commercial fishing permit holders: 72%
  • Alaska commercial fishing full-year resident crewmember licenses: 10,5633
  • Total annual landings for Alaska: 5.79 billion pounds
  • Alaska total seafood export value: $3.27 billion, by far the leading export

Find the UFA fishing fact sheets at

Pink outputs - Forecasts for this year’s salmon season have been trickling in over the past months, and state fishery managers will announce the official projections in a couple of weeks.

When it comes to pink salmon – Alaska’s ‘bread and butter’ catch - one market watcher already is calling the 2015 humpy harvest at just over 117 million fish, 22% higher than last year.

The fish news site Undercurrent News generated the projection based on Fish and Game’s preliminary wild and hatchery salmon numbers for Alaska’s most productive pink regions: Southeast, Prince William Sound and Kodiak.

State managers are calling for “excellent” catches throughout Southeast this summer of 58 million pink salmon. At Prince William Sound, the run forecast of wild pinks is 15.4 million fish; and the hatchery returns are pegged at 36 million. If 87% of the Sound’s pink catch is from hatcheries as it was last year, Undercurrent said, it would bring the combined Prince William Sound catch to 46.7 million pinks.

At Kodiak, managers are calling for a wild pink harvest of 6.9 million, and combined with local hatchery fish, the total catch should produce 11 million pinks.

When Kodiak’s projected take is combined with the other two regions, the pink salmon catch adds up to nearly 116 million.

Add in the lower catches from lower Cook Inlet and other regions, and Undercurrent News deduces Alaska’s statewide catch this summer at just over 117 million pink salmon. The 2014 total pink salmon harvest was just over 95 million fish.

Image booster - Unalaskans are bankrolling a media makeover to contrast the town’s image from what is portrayed on the popular Deadliest Catch program. The goal is to “offset what is seen by some as a negative public image created by the reality show, and to encourage oil company workers to make permanent homes locally,” wrote Jim Paulin in the Bristol Bay Times/Dutch Harbor Fisherman.

The Deadliest Catch presents a “fishing town with a bar problem,” said City Manager Patrick Jordan.

The Unalaska City Council has hired Anchorage-based Northwest Strategies to develop an ad campaign to promote the many positives of the far flung community to Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. With the onset of oil/gas exploration off Alaska’s north coast, Unalaska is uniquely positioned to welcome more families to town. The Council’s goal is to “encourage professionals, small business owners and tradespeople to choose Unalaska as a place to live and work.”

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