An administrative order to transfer administrative and research functions of the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission to the state’s Department of Fish and Game is being challenged in court.
According to plaintiffs – United Fishermen of Alaska and Robert M Thorstenson Jr., a commercial fisherman and lobbyist who owns a CFEC permit – the administrative order signed by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker on Feb. 16 is invalid and unconstitutional.
Members of UFA, an umbrella organization that represents 33 Alaska commercial fishing associations and their individual members, who also own CFEC-issued permits, make annual fee payments and participate in limited entry fisheries.
The lawsuit, filed in Superior Court in Juneau in April, seeks to enjoin the state from implementing that executive order. The plaintiffs contend that the reorganization or transfer of the CFEC’s functions and duties established in statute by the Legislature are outside of the control of the governor and cannot be accomplished without an executive order or a bill adopted by the Legislature.
The lawsuit notes that the Legislature mandated that the CFEC must be the entity issuing vessel licenses, and establishing fees, and also established the CFEC as a regulatory and quasi-judicial agency of the state, with three commissioners appointed by the governor and confirmed by legislators in joint session. With broad powers to regulator entry into the state’s commercial fisheries, and issue permits.
The effect of Walker’s administrative order 279 is to transfer offices and employees from the CFEC to ADF&G, and change their duties and their ability to carry out the statutory responsibilities legislatively imposed on the CFEC, the lawsuit said.
The governor stated in his administrative order that the objective of the transfer
was to streamline administrative and research functions of state agencies, identify cost-saving measures, and provide appropriate support to the commercial fishing industry in Alaska.