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Alaska Lawmakers Approve Task Force to Aid Troubled Seafood Industry

Wheel-300x150In response to the downturn in the seafood industry, Alaska lawmakers have approved the formation of a specialized task force created to address the challenges currently facing this vital sector. The decision reflects the need to mitigate the economic and social impacts that have reached a crisis point within the industry.

The measure, Senate Concurrent Resolution 10, will create an eight-member seafood industry task force, comprised of four state senators and four state House members, with the Senate president as chair.

The House passed the resolution nearly unanimously on Saturday May 25th, 2024. The Senate, which initially approved the resolution on April 19th, unanimously accepted the House’s amendments on Sunday.

The final version of the resolution authorizes a legislative staffer to support the task force’s work, and it left out a provision about possible harvest permit buybacks.

“These overall changes were done in the spirit of keeping the size and scope of the task force more narrow and for the work of the project to be completed in an efficient manner,” Stedman said on Sunday.

The task force, charged with presenting recommendations to the Legislature by January 21, 2025, will address the “unprecedented economic implosion of our industry,” said Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, one of the sponsors, during his floor comments.

Stedman and the resolution text outlined various challenges facing Alaska’s seafood industry including rising in-state operating costs, significantly lower fish prices due to reduced consumer demand and an oversupply in the global market, closures of fish processors, losses to communities reliant on fishery taxes, and significant declines in salmon stocks in many rivers, particularly the Yukon, as well as declining crab stocks in the Bering Sea.

“We have not seen an impact of our fisheries like this, I don’t think, in my lifetime,” he said. “Twenty years ago, there was a crisis in the Alaska salmon industry, which spurred the creation of a salmon task force that produced some solutions”, he noted. “This time, we’re dealing with virtually all our fisheries, with effects not just in smaller coastal towns but throughout the state”, he said.

The resolution was introduced on March 1st, 2024, by the Senate Finance Committee and championed by that committee’s powerful co-chairs, Stedman, Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, and Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel.

Environmental sustainability will also be a key focus. The task force will work to ensure that any proposed measures are environmentally sound, promoting sustainable fishing practices that protect marine ecosystems while supporting the industry’s recovery.

The approval of the task force is a significant step towards addressing the complex issues facing Alaska’s seafood industry. It reflects a recognition of the industry’s critical role in the state’s economy and the urgent need for coordinated action to avert further decline.

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