Dave Witherell, executive director of the federal fisheries council, said he received numerous calls and emails from the council family and public expressing appreciation for the decision to cancel the Anchorage meeting.
Witherell said the council’s community engagement and individual fishing quota committees would meet again when they can reconvene in person. The Crab Plan Team meeting is set for May 4–8 in Juneau, but may be remote only. The Climate Change taskforce is tentatively scheduled to meet via teleconference on May 18. while the Fishery Monitoring Advisory committee is planning to meet on May 18–19 and the trawl electronic monitoring committee will get together via teleconference on May 20.Other committee and plan team meeting are still in the process of being scheduled.
Witherell said council leadership would also decide then whether or not to hold the June meeting in person or remotely, and consider how to take public committee, should the meeting be held remotely. Several items at a minimum that will require timely council action were identified as final action of the St. Matthew blue king crab rebuilding plan, the scallop OFL/ABC (overfishing level/allowable biological catch; Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands crab specs and presumably the Cook Inlet salmon preliminary review.
Witherell said staff is exploring different possibilities for holding a remote meeting by teleconference, Webex or video conference platforms.
Council staff are also continuing to work on analyses and discussion papers listed for the April and June meeting agendas and working to address all tasks listed on the three-meeting outlook.
As these documents are completed, they are to be set aside and not posted publicly until they are put on a council meeting agenda to avoid confusion, Witherell said.
On the plus side, he said, some analyses will be posted to a meeting agenda well before the normal posting date.
Most council staff are teleworking and all may be as the coronavirus continues to spread in Anchorage.
As of Tuesday, March 24, there were a total of 36 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Alaska, including 17 in the Anchorage area, seven at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. All were adults and according to state medical officials, none were hospitalized.