2020 Southeast Alaska Conference
By Austin Otos
October 04, 2020
When talking about economic diversification we often overlook our reliance on the ocean. Fisheries, particularly mariculture, have a huge potential of becoming a viable industry in Southeast because of our vast coastlines and clean water. Since the KGB has an investment in the mariculture industry via Oceans Alaska, the partnership between local government supporting and jump-starting the industry is already there. Innovative businesses like Sea Grove Kelp/Premium Aquatics and Hump Island Oysters are producing value-added products that are being exported out of the region to other areas. The overall development plan ushered in by the Walker Administration called for $100 million industry in 20 years. Government partnership can help this industry by being a marketing vessel to build upon our trade relations with other countries that consume a large amount of our seafood.
Senator Lisa Murkowski gave an update on congressional legislation: Roadless Rule exemption, improving access between border cities, and disaster relief for the fishing and tourism industry. These issues are pertinent because of the KGB’s recent economic disaster declaration highlighting the need for federal support to offset COVID’s disproportionate economic impact on our region. The panel of all Southeast state legislators reiterated the need for state officials to keep a good working relationship with the Alaska congressional delegation in order to get disaster relief for our affected industries. In the next state legislative session, they stated that the number one issue dominating the legislature was finding a long-term fiscal plan for the state budget. They expressed the need to support Governor Dunleavy’s AMHS reshaping work group and the need for better rollout of the state CARES Act. Lastly, the UAS campus closure was addressed by acting UA President Pat Pitney. For now, UAS survived a merger with UAF, which saved crucial fisheries programs and local employment opportunities. However, going forward, the UAS system still has monumental budgetary and enrollment challenges due to COVID.
About: Austin Otos is a Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly Member.
Received October 01, 2020 - Published October 04, 2020
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