Alaska fisheries that unintentionally reel in specific types of fish would have to start paying taxes on that bycatch, under a bill introduced Wednesday.
House Bill 358, sponsored by Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, would establish a fisheries bycatch tax. Under the rule, a person engaged in a fisheries business would have to pay a one percent tax on the value of chinook salmon and halibut bycatch the person caught with trawl or longline gear in Alaska during the year.
Neuman said the main purpose of the bill is to generate conversation on the issue of bycatch.
"This is to bring a little bit more attention to the issue," he said. "It's been talked about by Alaskans for years, and how it affects our fisheries. … My whole goal on this is to help reduce bycatch."
Neuman also said the bill is not intended to hit Cook Inlet fishermen or smaller operations such as setnetters, but rather it's intended for "some of the bigger ocean processors."
"Why should they not pay a tax on resources they're taking from Alaska?" he said.
Bycatch in Alaska, especially for halibut, has been a heated issue in recent years. Groundfish fisheries frequently encounter halibut while trying to catch other types of fish. Stocks of Pacific halibut have also recently declined.
In January, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce approved a new measure aiming to reduce halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area by lowering bycatch limits.
The bill will next be discussed in the House Special Committee on Fisheries.