An Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting in Ketchikan focused on Southeast Alaska finfish and shellfish has been postponed from Jan. 4-15 to a still-to-be-announced future date and location, due to the surge of new omicron variant cases in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alaska Commissioner of Fish and Game Doug Vincent-Lang made the announcement on New Year’s Day, citing the record-breaking rise of COVID-19 cases nationwide and the sharp rise of those cases in Southeast Alaska. The number of new cases nationwide exceeded 486,000 individuals on Dec. 30, nearly double the previous high sustained in January 2021.
Vincent-Lang said that key ADF&G staff were among those who had come down with the virus and would be unable to participate. He also cited transportation concerns hampering air travel nationwide, including weather and the spread of COVID-19.
In addition, conducting an intensely public 12-day meeting with potential attendance of over 200 people from around the state has the potential to cause a spike in the cases in Ketchikan, overrunning the capacity of the city’s hospital already expected to be strained from local infections, Vincent-Lang remarked.
The Department and Board of Fisheries said it did not take lightly their decision to postpone the meeting and thanked those who had helped prepare for the event.
The decision was announced just after ADF&G’s New Year’s Eve announcement about the site-specific mitigation plan to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 during the meeting.
The full agenda had included a range of topics from commercial and sport, personal use and subsistence salmon fisheries to Golden, Tenner and Dungeness crab fisheries and herring stocks. Action plans on the agenda included one for northern Southeast Alaska King salmon stock status and another for Stikine River and Andrew Creek king salmon stock status.
More information on when and where the meeting will be held is to be posted online when available, but ADF&G did not say how soon that could be.