Sea Watch: Fed shutdown affects fisheries

While federal fisheries are expected to open on time despite the on-going partial shutdown of the government, there will be effects on fisheries in Alaska.

National Marine Fisheries Services offices have few people available to answer phones and questions, and while their enforcement arm is open for business, their research arm is shut down, which throws a serious wrench into on-going studies which require regular data collection, as well as hampering data collection for determining future quotas.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries website that deals with renewing permits has a notice banner alerting users that the site will not be updated, but notes that “NOAA websites and social media channels necessary to protect lives and property will be maintained,” including marine weather forecasting. No new permits will be issued during the shutdown. The federal fisheries are highly regulated and require frequent inspections of equipment such as scales and monitoring equipment that tracks vessel locations as well as type and number of fish. Those inspections are not happening until the stalemate in Washington, D.C. is resolved, and boats cannot legally fish without them.

KTOO Public Media reports that the shutdown would only have to affect a small number of Bering Sea boats for the economic impact to be substantial — a single fishing trip for a large factory trawler can be worth millions of dollars.

While most of the Bering Sea cod fleet had their inspections done before the shutdown, the pollock season that begins Jan. 20 could be affected if it lingers. And one vessel, the 180-foot Baranof, has more than two dozen crew members who flew out to Dutch Harbor for the winter fishing season.

They had planned to start fishing for red crab on Jan. 1, but are unable to leave the dock without having an electronic scale certified by federal regulators. Those regulators are on the ground in Dutch Harbor, willing to do the job, but unable because of the shutdown.

Doug Wells, government affairs director for Romanzof Fishing Co., which owns the boat, told KTOO, “It’s infuriating. These are just guys that have done a ton of work and are sitting there ready to go, and are being prevented by a bunch of politicians.”

The red crab fishery closes in mid-January, and if the Baranof can’t make its catch by then, the company’s losses would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, Wells said.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.

More in News

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a Friday, March 27, 2020 press conference in the Atwood Building in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
Revised travel mandates to begin Friday

Those arriving from outside the state must self-quarantine, but revisions allow for exceptions.

Seafood companies plan to merge parts of their operations

Comapny shares plans to merge parts of their operations.

Homer Farmers Market: Keeping the Market safe

The first Homer Farmers Market of the season in the new COVID-19… Continue reading

The entrance to the Kenai Peninsula Borough building in Soldotna, Alaska, is photographed on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Borough begins reopening

The reopenings are part of phase one of the borough’s approach to reopening responsibly.

Nikiski Fire Station #2, seen here on July 15, 2019 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Homer leads peninsula cities in number of COVID-19 cases

Borough announces three Nikiski Fire personnel have tested positive, 11 crew members quarantined

Paul Banks Elementary School principal honored with statewide recognition

Between advocating for his students to the local Kenai Peninsula Borough School… Continue reading

First day of Homer Farmers Market looks a little different

Homer’s annual Farmers Market inched ahead this summer with a cautious reopening… Continue reading

People hold signs at a protest on Sunday, May 30, 2020, at WKFL Park in Homer, Alaska, in support of people of color who have been the subject of police violence, including George Floyd, a man who died May 25, 2020, in a police encounter in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Locals organize multiple demonstrations on racial injustice

Three separate events to delve into the discussion of racial injustice in… Continue reading

Most Read