Fish factor: commercial fishing takes a break in proposed budget for fiscal year 2022

As Alaska faces the biggest budget cut in history, the state’s commercial fisheries are about to take a breather. But this is due more to the exchange of funds than to the generosity of lawmakers.

For the commercial fisheries division, the largest in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the preliminary fiscal year 2022 budget released by Governor Mike Dunleavy reflects a slight increase to $ 72.8 million, from nearly $ 68 million last year.

“I think we have done very well this year,” said Sam Rabung, director of the commercial fisheries division, in late December during a webinar on United Alaskan fishermen. “Where we are now, the legislature actually restored many of the cuts we took in FY20 and the governor did not veto all of them, so we recovered funds over the course of exercise 21. “

“In a nutshell, we are reduced by $ 783,500 in general funds, but to compensate for this we are receiving $ 855,000 in increased authority to use what we call GFP, our general fund program revenue from licensing. ‘commercial crew,’ he added. “Each year we get more revenue from crew licenses than we have the power to use. It’s kind of like creating a piggy bank and it just keeps piling up and that money comes up. We will be able to use those funds now instead of general funds. So that’s pretty much a wash.

Rabung agreed with Representative Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, that the commercial fish budget still includes the big cuts that were made in previous years.

“We have reduced our budget by approximately 45% of operational funding over the past six years or so. We’ve been cut pretty hard for several years, and now it’s sort of flattened, ”Rabung said. “I think what’s obvious is that there isn’t much left that has no impact on commercial fisheries. So when you talk about cutting the budget to the bone, we are to the bone and our hope now is that we can stay the same and hang in there and keep things where we can continue to manage for sustained performance. . “

There seems to have been a change in the past two years, Rabung said, and the Dunleavy administration now recognizes that “commercial fishing does more than pay for its own way.”

“The revenues that go into the general fund for commercial fishing activity are considerably higher than what the commercial fisheries division takes out to fund our operations,” he said. “It wasn’t obvious to this administration and many others in the past when they arrived, but they have it now.”

“I think the next layer of this message is that not only is the commercial fishery paying for itself. It also pays for the management of subsistence fisheries, even if we do not generate any income from these fisheries, ”explained Rabung. “We also manage personal use fisheries in the state. Ironically, to participate in a personal use fishery you must purchase a sport fishing license. Thus, the sport fishing division derives the revenues from it, although the commercial fishery does the evaluation and management. Commercial fishing as an industry supports many other activities and may not get the credit it deserves for them. And for some reason the Commercial Fisheries Entry Fee is also parked in our budget even though we have no involvement and are totally separate. In my opinion, they should be a separate entity. “

(TECC issues permits and vessel licenses in limited and unlimited fisheries and conducts formal hearings and appeals.)

The commfish division, which employs approximately 650 people statewide, also licenses and oversees Alaska’s nonprofit salmon hatcheries, aquatic shell and algae farming programs, and operates three laboratories that follow. genetics, pathology and age of fish species.

The division manages certain fisheries in federal waters under the authority delegated by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Board. And because fish are migratory and cross jurisdictional boundaries, staff are also involved in the research and policy activities of the Pacific Salmon Commission, the Canada-United States Joint Commission on the Yukon River and the United States. several other interstate and international fishing organizations.

Holiday fish boost

Along with the passing of the Young Fisherman’s Development Act in December, a $ 900 billion COVID relief plan was also passed by lawmakers in Washington, DC, and if / when it is signed by President Donald Trump, $ 300 million is set aside to help the fishing industry. Seafood was also ultimately declared an eligible use for food purchases by the USDA for its many feeding programs; additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has also been included.

The Save our Seas Act 2.0 has been adopted which is based on actions signed in 2018 to resolve marine debris problems. The bipartisan law, led by Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, is considered the most comprehensive ocean clean-up legislation ever passed by Congress and calls for a global commitment to prevent plastic pollution.

Save Our Seas will bolster the US response with a Marine Debris Foundation and a “genius award” for innovation and new research. It also aims to strengthen global engagement by formalizing US policy on international cooperation and improving US infrastructure to prevent marine debris through new studies on waste management and mitigation.

The bill also proposes numerous efforts to improve US waste management systems, especially recycling infrastructure. For example, he is creating a state loan program to support trash wheel and trash trap technologies.

Senator Dan Sullivan said in a statement that he is already considering a third bill that would focus on how China treats American recyclables.

Finally, Democrats in Congress gave a first look at the Magnuson-Stevens Act legislation they plan to introduce early next year. The MSA provides the “rules of the road” for the management and conservation of the fishery in the United States.

The reauthorized bill would maintain the eight regional fisheries councils, but would require members to receive training on climate change and include climate science in deliberations.

Underlying news reports that the bill also seeks to improve disaster relief programs, create a waterfront subsidy program and increase support for seafood marketing, including re-establishing the National Seafood Council. He would also call on the US Department of Agriculture and NOAA to work together to increase the seafood industry’s participation in the USDA’s agricultural marketing service.

Fish bone broth is a super food

Fish by-products are rapidly gaining popularity, and broths made from bones and other parts of fish are all the rage among health enthusiasts around the world.

Bone broths are loaded with essential nutrients like calcium, iodine, and minerals and have been shown to be helpful in supporting thyroid health. Its natural electrolytes stimulate muscle repair after training, but one of the main benefits is collagen.

“Collagen is good for your skin, hair and bones. Some people claim that it restores gut health. Broth is a nutrient-dense food that is no longer common in the standard American diet, ”said Randy Hartnell, founder and president of Vital Choice, an online seafood company.

He said fish broth was common in our ancestral diets and is coming back due to healthier eating trends.

“It’s sort of a continuation of the paleo nutrition rage that has really increased in recent years. We’ve seen a lot of bone broth companies, but fish broths aren’t common yet, so we’re excited to be able to bring it to our customers, ”Hartnell said.

A handful of Alaskan companies are also on the fish broth train. Rich Clarke, owner of Alaska Black Cod, is stocking up on leftover sablefish carcasses. Ed’s Kasilof Seafoods offers a halibut bone broth that won an Alaska Symphony of Seafoods competition. And Alaska Broth Company founder David Chessik hopes that one day his blend will be known as “Alaskan Coffee.”

Randy Hartnell pointed out another benefit of the growing popularity of fish broth: the reduction in fish waste.

“Bones, carcasses and skins have always just been thrown away,” he said. “It’s a way to use some of these byproducts in a way that makes something so unique and healthy out of sustainable Alaskan fish. This is another valuable aspect of this wonderful product.

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