The Alaska legislature is considering a bill to allow members of the Board of Game and Board of Fish to deliberate on topics even after declaring a potential conflict of interest.
Kodiak Republican Louise Stutes, chair of the fisheries committee, sponsored the bill along with Ketchikan independent Dan Ortiz. Stutes explained the intent of the legislation in a hearing before the fisheries committee Tuesday, February 14. “That’s the intent of this legislation is to make sure there is still a conflict that exists but the people sitting on these boards with the knowledge would be able to now put their knowledge forward,” Stutes said.
State law prohibits members of the two boards from voting or offering advice in a regulation change that could benefit them or a family member financially. The two boards decide hunting and fishing regulations in the state. The proposed law would not allow a board member with a conflict of interest to vote but would allow advice and testimony as the other board members decide.
“With all due respect chair Stutes I think I understand what you’re trying to do with this bill,” testified Mark Richards, executive director of the Resident Hunters of Alaska. “And I really think it’s about fisheries and about the board of Fisheries. And as we said in our letter we’d certainly like to see this amended to where it only involves the board of Fisheries. Our organization wants to see more transparency on the board of game not less.” Richards thought the bill as written could create further conflicts of interest.
Commercial fishing organizations like the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association and Southeast Alaska Fishermen’s Alliance support the change. Kodiak seiner Nathaniel Rose also thought it made sense. “We place experts or relative experts in their field onto the board of Fish however then we don’t allow them to deliberate on issue that they might be able to shed light on on highly contentious issues especially in fisheries,” Rose testified. “And I think that that personal connection and the value in that information is lost.”
The bill was moved out of House Fisheries on Tuesday.