House Bill 198, sponsored by Representative Elkins, and Senate Bill 126 sponsored by Senator Bert Stedman (R-Sitka) would amend the state's Aquatic Farming Act to allow aquatic farms to continue to operate in compliance with a recent Supreme Court decision. In order to be implemented, a change in statute is required, HB 198 will amend the Aquatic Farming Act to allow shellfish farmers to harvest and sell "insignificant populations" of wild shellfish stocks on their aquatic farm sites.
Recently, the Department of Fish and Game opened a commercial dive fishery on designated mariculture sites to remove the commercially significant population of wild geoducks from these small areas. This fishery has been open to all commercial divers in Southeast Alaska, preparing these sites for aquaculture.
Representative Elkins stated, "This legislation, the product of industry members and the administration working to find a compromise, will help ensure the future of this new fishery in Southern Southeast Alaska for years to come." HB 198 is on its way to meet Senator Stedman's legislation SB 126, which is scheduled for a hearing today in Senate Resources and then heading to the Senate Rules Committee.
"This legislation is important to the people of Southeast Alaska. Representative Elkins and I are working hard to get this important legislation done by sessions end to ensure that shellfish farmers will be able to start work this spring," said Senator Stedman.