Board of Fish rejects proposal process changes

May 24, 2016

The process for considering changes to state fisheries regulations will stay the same for the time being.

Bristol Bay fisherman Kelly Stier, of Homer, testifies at the state Board of Fisheries meeting in Anchorage in December 2015.
Credit KDLG News

During a May 24 teleconference meeting, Alaska's Board of Fisheries quickly declined to make any changes to its proposal process, at least for now.

The board sets policy for each of the state’s fisheries on a three-year cycle. As part of that process, state agencies and members of the public can submit proposals seeking changes to a fishery, and the board considers nearly all of them during a public meeting process. But as the state budget gets tighter, the board was considering streamlining that process for some proposals.

Comments from the public largely opposed that, and the board decided not to take action, at least for now, after a brief discussion.

The possible change would have streamlined that by using a consent agenda for some issues, but in written comments, fishing organizations and fishermen themselves said they were concerned it could limit the public voice, including Homer’s Kelly Stier, a Bristol Bay drifter.

“I understand the drive for making the board of fish process of reviewing proposals more streamline as I sat through the painful hours of public testimony this December,” he wrote. “However, I do not agree with changing to a “consent-agenda concept.” One of the things that became apparent while attending the BOF meeting was that seemingly small issues can often greatly affect large numbers of participants. It clear that those issues are best understood by the end user.”

Board members referenced those comments when they quickly decided against action.

Outgoing board member Fritz Johnson, of Dillingham, said he thought the current process was robust, and didn’t want to change it right now.

“I think it needs to be debated more fully among those of you who will still be on the board when you have that opportunity," he said. "The concerns I have heard from the region here speak to concerns that things may happen out of the public eye. The board of fish is just exemplary in terms of an open public process, and I’d hate to see that compromised.”

Kodiak’s Sue Jeffrey agreed.

“I wouldn’t be comfortable right now putting this in place,” she said.

Board members did say they wanted the option to revisit the issue in the future, perhaps with more of a public discussion of the idea.