NEWS: Legislation Signed to Support Southeast Alaska’s Dive Fisheries

HB 354 Updates the Assessment System Used by Alaska’s Only Dive Fishery Association

Ketchikan – Earlier this week, Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed a bill into law to help the valuable geoduck, sea cucumber, and sea urchin fisheries in Southeast Alaska. House Bill 354 updates the protocol used by the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association to charge an assessment to its members. The old assessment method that required a vote by a majority of all permit holders to authorize an assessment change was difficult to achieve because many permit holders no longer participate because their permits are nontransferable. HB 354 changes the threshold to change assessments to a three-quarters vote of the Board of Directors and a majority vote of permit holders participating in the election.

Rep. Ortiz, Gov. Walker, Liz Harpold
Credit: Felix Alexander Wong

“This fix had to happen because the current system was not working and was hamstringing the work of the fisheries association to support the management of the small, yet incredibly important, dive fisheries in Southeast Alaska,” said HB 354 sponsor Representative Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan). “The new voting system authorized by this bill will more accurately reflect the wishes of those who participate in these fisheries without having to rely on non-participants to actually participate in the election.”

The changes reflected in HB 354 were sought by the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association, which represents the participants in Alaska’s geoduck, sea cucumber, and sea urchin fisheries. Under state law, the participants in the fisheries can tax themselves to support the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s management and research of the fisheries. The three fisheries have a combined ex-vessel value of approximately $10 million a year.

House Bill 354 passed the Alaska House of Representatives earlier this year by a vote of 36-2. The Alaska State Senate passed the bill by the unanimous vote of 19-0. Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed HB 354 into law on Monday during a ceremony at the Southeast Alaska Dive Fisheries Association office in Ketchikan.  

For more information, please contact Liz Harpold in Rep. Ortiz’s office at (907) 247-4672.

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