Proposed budget good news for commercial fisheries

FisheriesDecember 24, 2011 

Alaska's commercial fisheries programs could get a slight boost if Gov. Sean Parnell's budget for next fiscal year gets a nod from legislators.

The proposed fiscal year 2013 operating budget for the Department of Fish and Game, including all state and federal funds, is just more than $209 million, a 5.1 percent increase. For commercial fisheries, the department's most expensive unit, a budget of $70.5 million is a 4.4 percent increase.

Parnell also is proposing a bond package that includes $10 million to help Seward prepare to homeport large at-sea processing boats owned by communities in the Kuskokwim region. The vessels now are based in Seattle and the bonds could begin a transfer of other big boats to remain in Alaska year-round.

In the Fish and Game budget, Commissioner Cora Campbell listed harvest management as a top budget item for fisheries. The report highlighted Yukon River salmon fisheries as a management priority because of the continued low productivity of chinook. Another priority is managing Southcentral chinook salmon fisheries in the face of low numbers of returning adults. The state Board of Fish has designated seven king salmon as "stocks of concern," six of them in Northern Cook Inlet and one in Kodiak.

The ADF&G budget report cites several fishery successes in the past year. Managers achieved a huge milestone in rebuilding Alaska snow crab stocks to sustainable levels within a federally mandated 10-year time frame, while still providing a viable harvest. Also mentioned: Alaska's 2011 salmon harvest was the third best since 1975 and the second best for groundfish in a decade.

View the proposed Fish and Game budget at omb.alaska.gov/.

PRISON TAKES POSITIONS

Fish and Game will lose 59 staff positions under Parnell's proposed budget. The commercial fisheries division will lose 13 full-time positions and 46 part-time positions.

Of the 288 vacant, permanent state government positions to be cut, most are in three agencies: Health and Social Services at 65, Fish and Game at 59, and Department of Transportation at 58.

Deleted positions in other agencies range from 22 to zero within the university system, according to an Associated Press report. The AP said: "Parnell's spokeswoman said most of the positions were vacant at least 11 months. The deleted posts are intended to help the state better absorb positions needed for a new prison."

FUTURE FISHERMEN

Building future fishing leaders is the goal of the Alaska Young Fishermen's Summit scheduled for mid-February in Juneau. The summit began in 2007 as a way to address the many changes the industry and the business of fishing have undergone in recent years. The two-day event provides basic training on four fronts: managing the financial aspects of a fishing business, participating in the regulatory processes, Alaska's role in the world seafood market and the science and management of sustainable fisheries.

"It's complicated -- there are state-managed fisheries, federally managed fisheries, hatcheries, people are looking at more financing to get into the fisheries, and the global marketplace has changed," said AYFS co-organizer Sunny Rice, a Sea Grant Marine Advisory agent in Petersburg.

Summit attendees will hear from fishermen who have participated in the political process, network with young and old fishing veterans and mix with a wide range of industry experts -- including Fish and Game Commissioner Campbell, who will talk about "where and how a young fisherman can get involved." Fishermen also will see the Alaska Legislature at work in Juneau.

Nearly 200 fishermen have taken part in the AYFS so far and Rice said one thing is for sure -- young people are eager for a fishing career.

"I've seen an exciting uptick of young people wanting to get into the fisheries and they are coming at it with a cool perspective," she said. "They think it is exciting and they are really dedicated to all the things that go along with it. It's not just because it's the closest job nearby that can make them some money."

The AYFS is Feb. 13-14 in Juneau. Some travel scholarships are available, as are Alaska Airlines discounted constituent fares. Rice cautioned that Juneau lodging is tight. Register by Jan. 12 to reserve a hotel room at a special rate. Contact Sunny Rice at sunny.rice@alaska.edu or 907-772-3381. Go to seagrant.uaf.edu/map/ for information about the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program.

CHRISTMAS SEA MIRACLES

As we reflect on the reason for the season, let's not overlook the wonders of the deep. SpongeBob could be the next rage in fiber optics. Researchers at Bell Labs have found that a certain type of sponge grows a network of glass fibers far more advanced than any found in today's telecommunications networks.

New Zealand researchers have found adding fish oil to animal feed reduces the release of methane gas by sheep by 25 percent to 40 percent. More than 20 percent of global methane emissions is from farm animals.

For hundreds of years, Asian cultures have used jellyfish to treat arthritis, high blood pressure and back pain. Some jellyfish have a special bioluminescence that is useful in medical research.

Chitin, a substance found in the shells of crab, shrimp and other crustaceans, is packed with medical miracles. The carbohydrate that makes up chitin bonds with red blood cells to form an artificial clot and seals massive bleeding wounds in just 30 seconds. The shrimp-based bandages are being used by our troops in Afghanistan.

Russian researchers have created a product from enzymes in king crab shells that helps heal severe burns. They claim that sea urchin pigment is remarkable for its antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

The venom of the cone snail is being used to treat severe chronic pain that doesn't respond to other treatment. Just a few micrograms is said to be 1,000 times more potent than morphine. Close to 15 drugs derived from marine organisms are in various stages of testing for cancer treatments. The lowly sea squirt appears to be especially promising.


Laine Welch is a Kodiak-based fisheries journalist. Her Fish Radio programs can be heard on stations around the state. This material is protected by copyright. For information on reprinting, contact msfish@alaska.com.

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