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Kodiak Fisheries Workgroup setting priorities and action items to help local fishers after four year hiatus

The Kodiak Fisheries Workgroup in 2024. Not pictured is Bo Whiteside of the Borough Assembly. (Davis Hovey/KMXT)
The Kodiak Fisheries Workgroup in 2024. Not pictured is Bo Whiteside of the Borough Assembly. (Davis Hovey/KMXT)

The Kodiak’s Fisheries Workgroup wants to host informational forums to speed along fish-related action items for the City Council and Borough Assembly. That was one decision the joint municipal body agreed on Wednesday, March 27, at its first forum in over four years. The Kodiak Fisheries Workgroup last held a meeting in Dec. of 2019.

The group has two representatives each from both the council and borough assembly. John Whiddon, one of the city council members, made a promise regarding the future role of the group.

“That we have a sense of urgency in what we do and that we don’t just meet to meet; nobody needs more meetings,” Whiddon said. “But we also develop when appropriate, and I think that today [March 27] is one of those [times], is action items; what are the next steps? So that someone doesn’t get up and speak at public comment, or during a meeting, and they go away and nothing ever changes,” he explained.

Whiddon is also one of the co-chairs for the fisheries working group, alongside Bo. Whiteside, who represents the borough.

The last time the workgroup was scheduled to meet was in March of 2020, but COVID squashed it. At the time, members were focused on fisheries research, critical habitat for humpback whales, and disaster funding for various species.

The group tackled some of those same issues at its meeting this week – including that Kodiak fishers are still waiting on Gulf of Alaska Pacific Cod Fishery disaster funding from 2020.

Julie Bonney of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank told the working group the holdup is partially because the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hasn’t yet awarded the grant funds. NOAA allocated $17,772,540 in May of 2022 but has yet to award that grant funding to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) for distribution.

“The spend plan was approved in August of 2023 and the application is stuck in D.C. with OMB [Office of Management and Budget], and NOAA, and we had originally been told those applications would be available in the first quarter of the year,” Bonney told the workgroup. “Obviously that hasn’t happened.”

Bonney was one of a dozen or so residents who attended Wednesday’s meeting. The public suggested a variety of ideas for the workgroup’s consideration, such as opening up waterfront property in Kodiak, purchasing a community cold storage facility, and increasing lobbying efforts in Washington D.C.

Fisheries Workgroup members say they will identify priorities and actionable items for their next meeting or informational forum on May 8.