ADN: AK Legislature approves seafood task force for sector in ‘crisis’

New task force would comprise 8 members appointed by Senate president and House speaker, if ok'd by governor. Recommendations due in January at start of next legislative session.

by | May 13, 2024

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Task force will make policy recommendations on how AK could help commercial fishing sector and communities

By Sean Maguire/Anchorage Daily News
May 13, 2024

JUNEAU — The Alaska Legislature on Sunday approved creating a task force to make policy recommendations to help the beleaguered commercial fishing industry.

The Senate unanimously approved the resolution to establish the task force. Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, was the only no vote in the House.

The task force is modeled be off another legislative task force created more than 20 years ago to help the salmon industry. At the time, salmon fishermen were struggling with the impacts of low prices and competition with farmed salmon.

Alaska’s commercial fishing sector has recently struggled with low prices, a global market swamped with low-priced Russian seafood, and the closure of several seafood processing plants. Salmon returns have crashed in critical fisheries across Alaska.

The United Fishermen of Alaska estimates that the state’s economy lost over $2 billion in 2023 alone as a result of the commercial fishing sector’s struggles.

“The depth of the crisis truly is unprecedented,” said Juneau Democratic Sen. Jesse Kiehl on the Senate floor in April.

The new joint industry task force would be comprised of eight members appointed by the Senate president and House speaker. The task force is set to make policy recommendations on how the state could help the commercial fishing sector and impacted communities across Alaska. Those recommendations are due in January at the start of the next legislative session.

The commercial fishing industry employs over 48,000 Alaska workers and is the largest private employer in the state. Fishing is the largest source of revenue for 11 Alaska communities.

“We want our fisheries healthy. We want our processors strong and our fishermen solvent. We want a viable economy along our coast,” said Sitka Republican Sen. Bert Stedman in support of the task force in April.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy can either sign or veto the measure or allow it to pass into law without his signature. The governor’s office said on Sunday that Dunleavy will make a decision on the resolution once it is transmitted to his office.

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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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