Center Square: Millions for Alaska's fisheries included in omnibus package

(The Center Square) - The $1.7 trillion spending bill passed by Congress includes millions for Alaska's fisheries and a provision that creates a task force to study Alaska's Pacific salmon.

The Alaska Salmon Research Task Force will have between 13 and 19 members, with most of them appointed by the Secretary of Commerce, according to a news release from U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy will appoint one member from the state.

The task force will be created 90 days from Dec. 23, which is when President Joe Biden signed the omnibus bill into law and will turn in its report within a year.

An additional $65 million is in the package for grants to restore Pacific salmon populations. Those grants are available to Alaska and five other states, according to Peltola.

The bill also included $300 million for fishery disasters, and another $300 million is included for administrative costs. The funding is not exclusive to Alaska, according to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Commerce declared six fishery disasters in Alaska, including the 2022/2023 closure of the Alaska Bristol Bay Red King Crab and Bering Sea Snow Crab Fisheries.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced in October that fishing Bristol Bay red king crab would be closed for the second year in a row.

The spending package includes $2.75 million for the Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation to monitor the Bering Sea's commercial fisheries. Among the other allocations is $1 million to the University of Alaska Fairbanks for research on seasonal weather forecasting.

"Our fisheries and oceans provide foundational food security and economic opportunity for Alaskans statewide. I'm proud to champion our marine environment and cornerstone species like salmon and crab in this year-end package," Murkowski said in a statement. "Alaskans advocated for these projects, we worked together to deliver on them, and we can now look forward to their implementation for our state."

U.S. Dan Sullivan voted against the spending package but said he supported some of its provisions, including the ones backing the state's fisheries.

"However, this is a more than $1.7 trillion dollar spending bill consisting of 4,155 pages, with thousands more in supporting documents, negotiated and agreed to only by House and Senate leadership, and their staff," Sullivan said in a statement. "We were given approximately 48 hours to read and analyze it. Decisions were made behind closed doors, many of which are clearly beyond the expertise of those making them, and the legislative process once again provided no meaningful opportunity for further input from Senators." 

By:  Kim Jarrett
Source: Center Square

Related Issues: Alaska's Fisheries