Transfer of Alaska CFEC Functions Put on Hold

A plan to move some administrative functions from the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has been put on hold to allow for public comment.

The announcement from Alaska Gov. Bill Walker on Aug. 25 came in the wake of the governor’s decision back in February to issue an administrative order to transfer certain CFEC administrative functions to ADF&G as a cost-saving measure. The governor said he felt that in an effort to save on administrative costs he had bypassed an important step in any restructuring of state government- public engagement and feedback.

“The vital stakeholder input will help determine the best course of action needed to find a path forward for the fishing industry, individual Alaskans, and the affected state agencies,” he said.

Alaska is in the midst of a fiscal crisis brought on by a drop in oil prices.

The Walker administration has been looking to cut administrative costs wherever possible, including sharing administrative resources and streamlining services.

The objective of Administrative Order 279 was to streamline administrative and research functions of the agencies, identify cost-saving measures, and provide appropriate support to the commercial fishing industry in Alaska without negatively impacting the fishing industry.

United Fishermen of Alaska and Robert Thorstenson Jr. challenged the administrative order with a lawsuit.

Then on July 21, Alaska Superior Court Judge Louis James Menendez ruled in favor of the state, saying that “at this current time, any alleged conflict between the AO and the CFEC is purely hypothetical.

Walker said the state would now pursue input from Alaska’s commercial fishing industry after the conclusion of the fishing season this fall.

Max Worhatch, president of United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters, and a UFA board member, said he was “very pleased and supportive of the governor’s action and looking forward to working with him on this.

“He is willing to discuss it with us, which is more than refreshing,” Worhatch said.

UFA contended in its lawsuit that the reorganization or transfer of CFEC’s functions and duties established in statute by the Legislature are outside of the control of the governor and cannot be accomplished without an executive order or a bill adopted by the Legislature.