Gov. Sean Parnell yesterday offered some interesting legislation for state lawmakers in Juneau to consider.
Introduced as Senate Bill 67 and House Bill 121, the legislation would establish a "commercial charter fisheries revolving loan fund" and a "mariculture revolving loan fund" within the state Department of Commerce.
These new funds would be capitalized initially with $5 million and $3 million respectively.
In a letter to legislative leaders, Parnell said mariculturists, who grow shellfish, have extremely limited access to start-up capital "because of the time needed for crop development and market readiness."
With respect to charter operators, Parnell cites the halibut charter fleet's impending shift to limited entry.
Beginning Feb. 1, charter operators in Southeast Alaska (Area 2C) and Southcentral Alaska (Area 3A) will need to have a new federal charter halibut permit onboard.
As with past Alaska fishery conversions to limited entry, we're hearing an outcry from marginal players who applied but didn't qualify for permits, which are awarded based on past participation in the fishery.
Or course, those who don't qualify for a free permit from the government can now buy one on the open market. And Parnell is looking to help them with that.
In his letter to the legislative leadership, the governor assets that the federal government's denial of up to 40 percent of permit applications will have the effect of "escalating permit prices."
SB 67 and HB 121 would authorize the Department of Commerce to make loans not only for buying charter halibut permits, but for the purchase or construction of charter fishing vessels.
Parnell said the charter loan fund would be similar to the state's existing commercial fishing revolving loan fund, which he characterized as "highly successful."
It appears that loans would be limited to $100,000, with a $300,000 cap on a borrower's total outstanding loan balances.
Only Alaska residents would be eligible for mariculture or charter loans.
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