Alaska State Budget Cuts Trickle Down to Fish and Game
Nobody likes to pay taxes, and budget shortfalls are often the result of tax-cutting government sessions in every state. Currently, Alaska is facing a large budget shortfall, and a need for more transparent line items within agencies to eliminate. A large chunk of this cut is being shouldered by Alaska Fish and Game. ADF&G will be making their budget cuts this year. While some would think this means open season on fish with little enforcement, this is not the case.
Where the Cuts Will Go
A large number of these cuts will go into reducing monitoring of local stocks. This includes research into king crab populations, aerial salmon surveys, herring studies and weir counts. Imaging and other electronic and GIS-based remote sensing techniques that require large startup costs but can save money in the long run will be postponed as well. Administrative streamlining will be another place where Fish and Game will try and make cuts, hopefully saving money on processing and red tape.
How Will this Affect Sport Fishermen?
Without accurate numbers on many of the streams in the area, Fish and Game will need to take a “be on the safe side” approach when it comes to openings. This will be most apparent in areas where counts are crucial to prevent overfishing, so the more popular the area and the more variable the annual populations, the more likely it is that ADF&G will need to be conservative. Counting will not go away completely. In many cases, they will take the more expensive and accurate counting methods like weirs and drop them down to towers or aerial surveys. In other areas, they may shorten their counting period or drop it in low-use regions.
The Cuts Continue
Because the shortfall was expected, Fish and Game had already built an 18 percent cut into its 2016 budget, and the governor came back asking for an additional ten. This is before the legislature has had their cut, so they will be looking at working with a third or more of their 2015 budget missing.
Advocates Continue to Work
Because these budget cuts will directly affect the quotas and opportunities of both commercial and sport fishermen, both lobbies are working hard with the legislature to keep them from hurting their industries. Alaska is very aware of the financial contribution of both commercial and sport fisheries that goes directly back into their general fund, so as the budgets finalize, there will likely be some outside the box thinking to keep the Fish and Game department running well enough so that seasons stay on track.
How You Can Help
In many regions, the cost of fish counts can be shouldered by other groups. Interested volunteer fishermen and students are a great way to have active, engaged participants in citizen science.
Donations from sport fishing groups to ensure their watershed gets an aerial survey is another way to go. If you want to contribute time or money, speak with your regional Alaska fish and wildlife group about the most efficient way to do so, or join up with a regional sport fishing club.