Wednesday, March 4, 2015

UFA Rallies to Defend Fisheries During State Budget Cuts

Falling oil prices are forcing Alaska’s government to make deep budget cuts in all state agencies, and state legislators this week are holding public hearings to gather testimony from Alaska residents on where to make those cuts.

To that end, United Fishermen of Alaska is urging its members to participate in person, by phone, or by email, in these House Finance Committee hearings.

In an email to its membership on March 3, UFA urged its members to contact legislators from their district about the importance of the budgets for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Tell them, the email read, “that the seafood industry creates economic opportunity for Alaskans. Deep budget cuts result in less time and area for harvest, and reduced ability to market Alaska’s seafood.”

UFA officials note that 72 percent of active commercial fishery permit holders are Alaska residents, and that the seafood industry is Alaska’s top private employer, with over 63,000 direct jobs annually. The estimated earnings of Alaska resident permit holders is $756.2 million. In fact, UFA officials said, one of every seven Alaska residents is employed by the seafood industry.

Budget reductions for ADF&G proposed by the department’s budget subcommittee, and similar numbers adopted by the House Finance Committee, said UFA, would allow the seafood industry to create economic opportunity to benefit the state.

ASMI’s budget lies within the budget of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. The proposed reduction to the ASMI budget from the House Finance Committee represents $2.88 million, or a 39 percent reduction in general funds. That, notes UFA, is a deeper cut than the 16 percent reduction proposed by Gov. Bill Walker.

UFA also asked its members to thank the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development budget subcommittee for fully restoring the governor’s cut to the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association.

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