Change in dive fishery assessments approved

Legislators have approved updates to protocols used by the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association to access members to help manage and support geoduck, sea cucumber and sea urchin fisheries.

House Bill 354, sponsored by Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, changes the assessment mechanism from a vote of the majority of permit holders to a three-quarters vote of the board of directors and a majority vote of permit holders participating in the election.

The bill has been sent to Gov. Bill Walker for his signature.

The association’s current assessment method requires a vote by a majority of all permit holders to authorize an assessment change. It has been difficult to make assessment changes because many permit holders no longer participate in the dive fisheries due to the permits being nontransferable.

“The current system is not working and had to be updated,” Ortiz said.

Under state law, participants in these dive fisheries can tax themselves to support the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s management and research in these fisheries, which have a combined ex-vessel value of some $10 million annually.