Will Alaska ax fish commission?

The House Fisheries Committee on Thursday passed a bill that would eliminate the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission and move its duties to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The unanimous vote came despite fishermen’s objections that the bill upends the separation of power between the commission that oversees Alaska’s limited-entry fisheries like salmon and the agency that regulates commercial fishing.

The legislation, House Bill 112, goes next to the House Resources Committee. A referral to House Finance is expected, according to Reid Harris, aide to the fisheries committee that’s chaired by bill author Rep. Louise Stutes, a Kodiak Republican.

The fish commission is under scrutiny given the state’s anticipated $3.5 billion shortfall this budget season, a result of plummeting oil prices. Critics say the commission is an outdated agency the state can’t afford.

Created in 1974 to rein in booming salmon fisheries, the commission now administers 68 fisheries including salmon, crab and herring through limited entry. It hasn’t created a new fishery, though, in a decade.

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