With the Alaska State Legislature reconvening next week, southern Southeast Alaska Rep. Dan Ortiz has pre-filed two bills in the House.
The Ketchikan independent admits he’s much more focused on one of the bills than the other. His pre-filed mariculture bill is top of mind as the legislature comes back into session. The bill would do a few things. Namely it would allow for “shellfish enhancement projects.”
Flip Pryor is with the aquaculture department at the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. He explains that the bill would basically let farmers of shellfish like oysters or crab do what salmon hatcheries already do.
Pryor elaborated on the idea, using the example of king crab: “You take crab, stick them in a hatchery setting, spawn them, raise the little ones out. And then the idea would be go back into the wild and release the little ones. So hopefully, down the line, you can have larger quotas of king crab,” he said.
The mariculture bill would also allow the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to boost mariculture products like oysters, change around the way permitting fees are calculated for hatcheries and allow existing salmon hatchery nonprofits to apply for mariculture permits.
A nearly identical version of the bill sponsored by Rep. Ortiz during the last session, expired after the COVID-19 pandemic ended the legislative session early.
Ortiz — who represents Wrangell, Ketchikan, Metlakatla and the southern half of Prince of Wales Island — has consistently backed mariculture as an area for economic growth in the state.
“I just see it as a step in the process of making mariculture be a real added benefit to the economies of coastal Alaska, and particularly southern Southeast Alaska, and places like the District 36 community,” Ortiz said. “[It’s] a jobs provider, producing food for the world to eat, it’s going to continue to be — somebody needs to fill that gap as Asia’s population grows.”
Asian markets are some of the biggest buyers of shellfish.
Ortiz continued: “It’s an environmentally friendly thing, and renewable, it’s all good. No downside that I can see, and this bill helps that industry move along towards that goal of becoming a real producer.”
The other pre-filed bill, Ortiz says, is somewhat of a placeholder. It would be the first step towards ending Alaska’s twice-yearly time changes by keeping the state on daylight saving time all year.
Congress would also need to pass legislation allowing states to remain on daylight saving time year round.
Ortiz also says he’s not sure how much backing there is for the idea of ending the spring forward, fall back cycle.
“I have to really do some strong constituent assessment as to the level of support for something like this,” Ortiz explained.
The bill is not new — Rep. Ortiz sponsored almost the same exact bill last session. He says a constituent in Wrangell requested it.
It would also need a companion bill in the state Senate, but so far, that hasn’t happened.