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Kodiak Island legislators discuss fishing issues and relief to wrap up this year’s ComFish

Kodiak Island's legislators, Rep. Louise Stutes and Sen. Gary Stevens.

Kodiak Island’s representatives in the Alaska State Legislature discussed some of the potential relief coming to fishermen on the final day of this year’s ComFish trade show on Saturday, April 13.

State Sen. Gary Stevens, who was joining via Zoom, told attendees he wants to create a legislative task force to study long term solutions for changes happening within the commercial fishing industry. That includes some unknowns surrounding companies, like Trident, that are selling processing plants.

“So what I’ve done is introduced a resolution that is now in the Senate, that will hopefully pass soon and go over to the House, setting up a seafood task force. We did this when I was in the House in 2002, or 2003 I believe, that was a salmon task force. We were able to make some contributions to really help the salmon industry,” Stevens explained.

Stevens said he hopes the proposed legislation will move out of committee within the next week or so. He also cited Senate Joint Resolution 14 which would seek federal support and policy changes to improve Alaska’s fishing industry. The bill has been referred to the House Rules Committee.

State Rep. Louise Stutes told the room full of attendees at the Best Western Inn harbor room that lobbyists promoting sport fishing in Alaska have put more pressure on legislators recently.

“One of the biggest issues we are fighting in the Legislature right now is sport fish. Our Governor leans towards sport fish. You take a look at our Board of Fish, it’s weighted [towards] sport fish. We have heavy lobbyists in Juneau that are in the building, almost daily, promoting sport fish,” Stutes explained.

Stutes said she is also opposed to a bill that would require expanded electronic monitoring of fishing vessels, as it is currently written. According to Stutes, the measure would put undue burden on smaller fishing vessels and the necessary financial considerations have not been included. The bill was proposed by Governor Mike Dunleavy and has not moved forward in the last two months.

These bills could move forward before the end of this legislative session on May 17. Although, the Legislature is now focused on budgets for the upcoming fiscal year [2025].

Stevens said the capital budget currently includes money to repair and replace the roof at Kodiak College. The Alaska Senate has approved its version of the capital budget and given it to the House of Representatives, in a swap for the House’s approved version of the operating budget.

Legislators have until mid-May to pass an operating budget and a capital budget before the regular session ends. The Legislature can vote to go into a special session starting on May 18 though if they need more time.