Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Editorial Comment - US Senator Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska)

Alaska’s fisheries are considered among the best managed in the world. The state and federal agencies that sustainably manage Alaskan fisheries have done so with science-based conservative catch limits, comprehensive catch accounting, a transparent public process, and effective monitoring and enforcement.

Alaska’s commercial fisheries are major contributors to the state’s economy and our unique way of life. Alaska has the nation’s most abundant fisheries, with an annual catch of nearly 5 billion pounds for the past two decades and an economic output of almost $6 billion. This continued success is the result of sound management that keeps our fisheries sustainable while providing a good living for so many Americans.

I am fortunate to be in a position to help the fishing industry as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. I am on the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) budget, including NOAA fisheries. I have obtained funding for fisheries and marine mammal research, Bering Sea crab management and loan program, the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund, Yukon and Pacific Salmon Treaty implementation, habitat restoration projects and numerous boat harbor and port around the state.

I also sit on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee which oversees the United States Coast Guard’s budget. They are responsible for the monitoring and enforcement of fisheries, as well as providing search and rescue operations in Alaskan waters. I’ve continually fought to ensure the Coast Guard in Alaska is adequately funded, keeping adequate numbers of ships and aircraft, so that it can carry out its mission of both protecting our waters and keeping mariners safe.

As well as obtaining funding, I also support Alaska’s fisheries and coastal communities with legislation. Recently, a bill I sponsored, S. 3372, extended a two-year moratorium on a Clean Water Act permit for incidental discharges from commercial fishing vessels. The legislation extended the moratorium on the permit requirement until December 2013, allowing time to work on a permanent exemption.

I have previously sponsored legislation that allowed fishermen to average their income for tax purposes; to include fishermen in Trade Adjustment Assistance programs; made Country of Origin and wild and farmed labeling mandatory for seafood; provided tax relief for plaintiffs in the Exxon Valdez oil spill and introduced a bill to reform the capital construction fund program.

In the recently enacted Coast Guard reauthorization bill, I advocated to make sure that fishing vessels would not be subject to onerous loadline and classification requirements. Instead, they can now work with the Coast Guard to develop an alternative safety program tailored to their fishery, vessel type and region.

I’m working on a number of other issues that affect Alaska’s fisheries: including active engagement in the draft biological opinion for the Western Population of Steller Sea Lion and providing comments to the National Ocean Policy Task Force on marine spatial planning. I am actively tracking the development of a national offshore aquaculture policy and I continue to advocate for regional stakeholder driven ocean policy and oppose any offshore finfish aquaculture development that might impact wild fish stocks and markets. Recently, I became more engaged in the FDA approval process for genetically engineered salmon and am strongly opposed to any approval for this product. I have also strongly opposed a provision in a recently introduced maritime bill that would have increased protection and indemnity (P & I) insurance costs for all fishing vessel owners.

I understand how important our commercial fisheries are for fishermen and coastal communities. I am committed to keeping them sustainable and economically viable, so they continue to support so many jobs; over 50,000 in Alaska alone. I am proud to be an advocate on behalf of so many fishing families.

Fishermen’s News Online welcomes editorial submissions from those interested in promoting the West Coast commercial fishery. Submissions may be sent to editor@fishermensnews.com.

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