Fishing issues will take a back seat to budget cutting when the Alaska legislature convenes on January 19 for its 90-day session, but two early fish bills (and one hold-over) already are getting attention.

One new measure aims to stop the migration of fishing permits outside of the state.

We lost over 50 percent of our permits over the 1973 original issuance of permits,” said Robin Samuelsen of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, speaking at a two day Alaska Sea Grant workshop last week in Anchorage titled Fisheries Access: Charting the Future.

Forty years ago at Bristol Bay, 36 percent of the more than nearly 2,000 permits were held by locals and 64 percent by nonresidents. By 2013, the numbers were 19 percent local and 81 percent nonresident. Similar trends, by varying degrees, are happening in other regions as well.

Rep. Jonathan Kriess-Tomkins (D-Sitka) said he intends to introduce a bill that would establish a permit bank to reverse the outmigration trend. The bank would buy nonresident permits and lease them to young fishermen who otherwise could not afford them. It would offer several types of fishing permits (Alaska has 65) that would be proportional and reflective of regional fisheries. A permit bank would not cost the state any money, he said, because it would fall to local communities to raise the money.

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