Alaska Board of Fisheries looks to restructure how proposals are vetted

Alaska’s Board of Fisheries considers possible changes to each of the state’s fisheries every three years. But later this month, the board will consider changing that process so that some proposals get added to a consent agenda, hopefully shortening the length of each meeting.

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As nearly every facet of state government grapples with budget cuts, the Board of Fisheries is looking at moving a little more quickly through some of the proposed fishery regulation changes each year.

The board’s executive director Glenn Haight says the possible change wouldn’t affect how proposals are submitted, just how some are vetted.

“If there are some technical proposals that may not be terribly controversial, impactful, but make sense, a lot of times at board members you see these things go through with very little public comment, no objection, it’s those kind of things the board will take a look at it in advance and expedite the review of,” Haight said. “There’s some discussion of looking at some that might be more suitable for delegations to the department.”

Right now, nearly every regulation change goes through the same process. They’re submitted by the public and the department of fish and game in the spring, and added to the proposal book published by fall. Each change is considered separately, with a time for discussion and public comment, at the appropriate meeting. This would speed things up a little, so some proposals could get approved in one fell swoop.

The department of fish and game would make some recommendation on what proposals to put on that consent agenda, and then a board of fish committee would decide what went on that agenda.

“Those would be identified in advance of a meeting so people could respond if they disagreed with the potential for those being on a consent agenda,” Haight said. “Once we got into a regulatory meeting, those proposals would be identified. You would want to go past public testimony so people could voice concern about a particular proposal based on that consent agenda. And if the board members felt the need to pull any one of those proposals off that consent agenda they could do it. And then it would run through the typical deliberations. And any board member could pull any proposal off that.”

Haight saID the consent agenda idea is modeled after what some local governments already do. The sorts of proposals he envisions on the consent agenda?

“Of course, none of the weighty issues would be a consent agenda. Registration and Port Heiden for instance,” Haight said. “None of that would be even considered for something like this I can’t imagine. One of the things we’ve seen a lot in recent history is the department trying to update its navigational markers, and its using GPS more. That’s a really common one. Another type I’ve seen, not as common, but sometimes the department will want to put into regulation a practice they’ve been doing. That’s been typical and they’ve been doing for years and it’s just not in regulation.”

The seven-member board will meet via teleconference May 24 to discuss that plan. The agenda also includes a discussion of where to hold the 2018 Southeast Alaska finfish and shellfish meeting, and an update on next year’s budget. Public comment will be taken through May 20, but not at the meeting.