KETCHIKAN (KDN) — Citing COVID-19 concerns and transportation issues, the state has postponed the 12-day Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting that was scheduled to start Tuesday at the Ted Ferry Civic Center in Ketchikan.

The meeting to consider more than 150 proposed changes to state management regulations for finfish and shellfish in Southeast Alaska and Yakutat already had been postponed from January 2021 because of COVID-19 issues.

On Friday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced that the 2022 meeting would proceed in Ketchikan with a site-specific mitigation plan developed by the state’s Board Support Section with “considerable advice and assistance” from a Ketchikan oversight group comprising “local and statewide experts.”

However, on Saturday, the state’s Board Support Section announced that the meeting was being postponed, with a date and location yet to be determined.

“The meeting will be postponed out of an abundance of caution due to the record-breaking rise of COVID-19 cases in the United States, and a concerning sharp rise in Southeast Alaska,” stated Saturday’s announcement. “... With the rise in cases post the holiday season, already key staff have contracted COVID-19 and are unable to participate. In addition, the nation and Alaska are facing serious transportation difficulties as weather and the pandemic are seriously hampering travel in the near-term.

The announcement added that Fish and Game and the Alaska Board of Fisheries “take to heart“ concerns expressed by health care professionals who participated in the Ketchikan oversight group. 

“Conducting this intensely public 12-day meeting with potential attendance of over 200 people from around the state has the potential to cause a significant case spike in Ketchikan and lead to overrunning its hospital capacity already expected to strain from local infections from the holiday season,” stated the announcement.

Expressing disappointment in the postponement, the announcement indicated that the Board of Fisheries fully intends to complete its meeting cycle during 2022.

“The department and board would like to express their sincere appreciation to the community of Ketchikan for its assistance and generosity in helping prepare for this meeting,” according to the announcement.