Sustainability is fisheries priority

Stutes’ list includes budgets, permit fees, transboundary waterways and more

In the upcoming legislative session, the House Special Committee on Fisheries will focus on sustainability and how the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and others are contributing to it, says Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, committee chair.

“We’re going to really zero in on each department and their contribution to the sustainability of our fisheries,” said Stutes.  “That’s the bottom line.”

Her committee will be looking at how money is being spent in the state agency to determine what ongoing studies and more are contributing to sustainability.

Stutes already has on her agenda for the committee’s first meeting on Jan. 26 representatives of the state agency and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, to explain the different roles of the two entities.

In February, “I am going to have different department heads come with their budgets and explain their budgets and how they have been spending them.

“And it pertains to management of their fisheries,” she said, including surveys and how they enhance the fisheries.


Also on Stutes’ agenda will be the issue of proposals by the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission to raise the caps on permit fees, and transboundary waterways issues in Southeast Alaska.

“Removing the cap on fees (alone) does not make them more fair and equitable,” Stutes said. “The whole method of determining the fees needs to be reevaluated.” Stutes said she would call on CFEC Commissioner Ben Brown to explain to the committee its current fee system, and what the options are to improve and equalize the user fees for the open access fisheries.

Stutes said she feels the current fees are unfair and inequitable, and that the committee will open a dialogue on the issue, a dialogue she hopes will attract lots of information that will result in a good, solid system.

The Kodiak Republican also plans to continue looking into Southeast Alaska transboundary river issues, in the wake of a lengthy hearing held this past summer in Juneau. “The US and Canada have to come to a meeting of the minds on how this issue should be addressed,” she said.  Of major concern is putting in place ways to prevent environmental damage, along with the financial means of government to deal with disasters, should they occur.

“Fisheries is the largest private employer in the state, a huge resource for the state of Alaska,” she said. “I don’t think people realize the impact, and they need to understand that, whether you live in Fairbanks, Kodiak or wherever.  There isn’t a community in the state that fisheries doesn’t somehow touch.

“We need to make sure that fisheries remain sustainable, everything from appropriate surveys to weir counters,” she said.  “It’s going to be an exciting year.

We’re moving forward. Hang on for the ride. Something can actually get done.”