Seafood Industry Task Force supported by AK legislators; PSPA outlines solutions

The legislative task force "shall develop a long-term vision for the state seafood industry as a critical element of the state's economic future."

by | March 6, 2024

A Senate resolution creating the task force is set for a teleconferenced hearing Thursday morning (3/7)

A Senate resolution that aims to create a Joint Legislative Seafood Industry Task Force is set for a first hearing by the Senate Finance Committee on March 7 starting at 9am.

The resolution claims that “the seafood industry is one of the cornerstones of the state’s economy,” and “the considerable changes in the global salmon market in recent years have placed the state’s seafood industry in economic peril, threatening not only the main engine of the rural economies of the state but also a significant contributor to urban economies and is causing harmful revenue losses to the state’s general fund and to municipal budgets.”

Senate Resolution makes seven recommendationsfor statewide industry as a whole”

The resolution states that the duties of the task force include recommending:
(1) legislative and administrative means by which government can assist the state’s seafood industry in response to changing economics;
(2) public policy options that account for effects on communities that are severely affected by the crisis in the state’s seafood industry;
(3) improvements for the coordination of the harvesting, processing, and marketing of seafood;
(4) new seafood product development;
(5) improvements to the marketing efforts of the state seafood industry;
(6) methods to improve the quality of the state’s seafood products;
(7) a long-term strategic plan for the state’s seafood industry

Task force would include 7 members

The Senate resolution states the task force would include two members of the House and Senate, to be named by the Senate President and House speaker. Two public members representing United Fishermen of Alaska or the Pacific Seafood Processors Association would be appointed jointly by the Senate President and the House Speaker. The final seat would go to the Commissioner of Fish and Game or a designee.

The Legislative Seafood Industry Task Force must submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the legislature by January 21, 2025, and may make any interim reports it considers advisable.

The Task Force will be terminated on February 2, 2025.

Similar task force fizzled in 2004; PSPA outlines ambitious state actions

The Deckboss blog by Wesley Loy points out that such a task force is reminiscent of the Joint Legislative Salmon Industry Task Force that operated from 2002 to 2004.

An Alaska Fish News search showed that $650,000 was appropriated at that time for the task force “to conduct statewide town hall meetings in conjunction with the United Fishermen of Alaska.” No bills were found to come out of that effort.

Deckboss asked what the industry hopes get out of this latest task force and refers to a Pacific Seafood Processors Association position paper of Feb.8 titled “PSPA State and Federal Policy Positions to Improve Competitiveness and Resilience of the Alaska Seafood Sector.

PSPA is a non-profit trade group that has represented seafood processing companies in the policy, regulatory, and legislative arenas since 1914. PSPA’s corporate members are eleven major shoreside and mothership processing companies with operations based in Alaska and Washington.

PSPA states that: “Today’s problems are a result of the confluence of multiple global and national economic factors occurring simultaneously, which are outlined in this attachment.

Its paper says that “While some challenging market conditions will improve over time, the need for state and federal government action is critical at this time in order to support the US seafood industry and help meet current challenges in the following areas: • Reduce operating costs • Expand and diversify markets • Invest in modernizing the industry • Create a stable regulatory environment • Maintain core data collection foundational to sustainable fisheries management.

PSPA also suggests other state actions including low-interest loans and loan guarantees for seafood processors via the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, and loan concessions for fishermen and hatcheries.

Commercial Fishing Communities in Alaska Credit: NOAA

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.

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