Alaska Lawmakers Approve Task Force to Consider Responses to Seafood Industry ‘Implosion’

By Yereth Rosen, Alaska Beacon.

A special legislative panel is to make recommendations about state policies to rescue Alaska’s seafood industry, a major pillar of the economy that is mired in crisis, under a bill that won final passage over the weekend.

The measure, Senate Concurrent Resolution 10, would establish an eight-member seafood industry task force, with four state senators and four state House members and with the Senate president as chair.

The House passed it nearly unanimously on Saturday. The Senate, which originally passed it on April 19, on Sunday gave unanimous approval to changes made in the House.

The task force, to present recommendations to the Legislature by Jan. 21, 2025, is charged with finding some kind of response to the “unprecedented economic implosion of our industry,” Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, one of the sponsors, said in floor comments on April 19.

Stedman, as well as the text of the resolution, listed numerous challenges facing the industry in Alaska: higher operating costs within the state; much lower prices for fish, driven by reduced consumer demand and a world market glutted with supply, much of it from Russia; closures of fish processors; losses to communities dependent on fishery taxes; and crashes of salmon stocks in some rivers, notably the Yukon, and of crab stocks in the Bering Sea.

“We have not seen an impact of our fisheries like this, I don’t think, in my lifetime,” he said. Twenty years ago, there was a crisis in the Alaska salmon industry, which spurred the creation of a salmon task force that produced some solutions, he noted. “This time, we’re dealing with virtually all our fisheries,” with effects not just in smaller coastal towns but throughout the state, he said.

“No area goes untouched. Shellfish, whitefish, groundfish,” he said.

The resolution was introduced on March 1 by the Senate Finance Committee and championed by that committee’s powerful co-chairs: Stedman, Sen.