Concerns over the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus have prompted the Alaska Board of Fisheries to postpone a meeting scheduled for Jan. 4-15 in Ketchikan to a later date. The meeting will address Southeast and Yakutat finfish and shellfish issues.
The future date and location for the meeting are still to be determined, said Doug Vincent-Lang, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He cited rising national case counts reportedly exceeding 486,000 individuals Dec. 30, an infection rate nearly double the previous high in January 2021. Southeast cases are increasing in almost every community, he said.
ADF&G officials said key staff have contracted the virus and are unable to participate.
They also noted serious transportation difficulties, with weather and the pandemic hampering travel.
Fisheries officials said they take to heart concerns expressed by healthcare professionals who participated in the Ketchikan oversight group that helped the boards support section of ADF&G to develop meeting mitigation measures. Conducting this intensely public 12-day meeting with potential attendance of over 200 people coming from around the state has the potential to cause a significant spike in cases in Ketcihikan and overrun hospital capacity already expected to be strained from local infections from the holiday season.
The department and board said they are extremely disappointed with the postponement and do not take its impact on the participating public lightly. It is the board’s full intent to finish its meeting cycle this year, they said. ADF&G also expressed its appreciation to the community of Ketchikan for its assistance and generosity in helping to prepare for this meeting.