Anyone interested in the value of some of Alaska's most important industries will find answers from a snazzy presentation that's making the rounds in Juneau.
Hoping to convince budget writers that the Department of Fish and Game is a state "profit center," Commissioner McKie Campbell is personally showing a colorful, 150-page PowerPoint report to anyone who will watch. The message reveals contributions made to the state's general fund by commercial fishing, sportfishing, hunting, subsistence and other divisions under the Fish and Game umbrella.
Earlier this month, Rep. Jim Holm, R-Fairbanks, rejected more than $6 million of a $10 million budget increase for the department in the governor's budget proposal for fiscal year 2007. Holm chairs the House Finance Committee's Fish and Game subcommittee.
Fish and Game returns $35 for every $1 lawmakers invest in its budget, according to Campbell's report.
The department's total budget proposal of $171.4 million includes $43.9 in state general funds, of which 65 percent is earmarked for the Commercial Fisheries Division.
Commercial fishing provided 34,200 peak-season jobs, including 17,000 harvesting and 17,200 processing jobs, in 2004.
Sportfishing license sales earned $14.8 million for the state last year, while hunting licenses generated $3 million to state coffers in 2004. Thousands of anglers, hunters and wildlife-viewing tourists, many from out of state, spend big money in Alaska, Campbell said.
In all, the Alaska economy sees a return of more than $5 billion on Fish and Game's budget, according to the commissioner.
But lawmakers aren't paying much attention. In his weekly newsletter, "Laws for the Sea," Bob Tkacz reported that only Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, attended Campbell's briefing last week before the Senate Finance subcommittee, which Bunde chairs.
* Offshore fish watch. The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee's National Ocean Policy Study Subcommittee has announced a hearing on offshore aquaculture for 10 a.m. April 6 in Washington, D.C.
Offshore aquaculture involves farming fish in waters of at least three miles out to sea.
The hearing will examine current proposals to regulate offshore aquaculture operations, discuss research being done off the coasts of New England and Hawaii, and explore the impacts that expanded fish farming operations would have on commercial fishermen, seafood processors and consumers.
Witnesses for the hearing have not yet been announced. U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, helped establish the National Ocean Policy Study Subcommittee.
Laine Welch is a Kodiak-based fisheries journalist. Her Fish Radio programs can be heard on stations around the state. Her information column appears every other Saturday.