Changes proposed for dive fishery assessment system

Legislation approved by the Alaska House would update the protocol used by the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association to charge an assessment to its members to help manage the geoduck, sea cucumber and sea urchin fisheries.

These three fisheries have a combined ex-vessel value of $10 million annually.

House Bill 354, sponsored by Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, would change the assessment mechanism, from a vote by a majority of permit holders to a three-quarters vote of the board of directors and a majority vote of permit holders participating in the election.

Ortiz said that the current system to change the assessment isn’t working because of the difficulty in getting a majority of permit holders to participate in elections. The simple change to the system called for in this legislation recognizes the reality of who participates in these dive fisheries and makes the needed change to allow the annual assessment to be adjusted in a reasonable manner, Ortiz said.

The dive association, Alaska’s only dive fisheries organization represents participants in the geoduck, sea cucumber and sea urchin fisheries. Under state law, participants in these fisheries can tax themselves to support the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s management and research of the fisheries.

The bill now goes to the Alaska Senate for consideration.