Issue Position: Alaska's Fisheries
Alaska's fisheries and fishing industry are the very heart of Alaska's coastal communities and crucial to the nearly 60,000 Alaskans across the state who directly or indirectly base their livelihoods on it. It is important that the state's fishing industry which employs so many Alaskans and accounts for the bulk of the state's exports be strengthened and encouraged to expand.
The successful reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in the closing hours of the 109th Congress was the most significant federal fisheries legislation to pass in many years. The reauthorized MSA uses the "Alaska model" of fisheries management as the basis. This is strong recognition of the success of our management.
There are several important fishery issues that I am working on in Congress. Currently, the most important issue is an amendment that I included in the Senate-passed Farm Bill (HR 2419) to provide tax relief to the plaintiffs of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The amendment would provide 3 year income averaging and allow an IRA contribution of up to $100,000, from a potential judgement. I will be working diligently to make sure this amendment stays in the final version of the Farm Bill.
The Administration introduced an off-shore aquaculture bill, S. 1609, last session, but it has not been marked up and passed by the Senate Commerce committee. Even with amendments to allow Alaska to opt out of the program and a prohibition on aquaculture off of Alaska within the EEZ, I still have concerns that the administration is not adequately addressing environmental risks, socio-economic impacts on existing commercial fisheries and communities, and more oversight and monitoring. A staff working document has also been released, but it still has several substantial deficiencies.
I introduced my own aquaculture bill, the Natural Stock Conservation Act of 2007 which requires the appropriate federal agency to determine the type of analysis necessary and report back to Congress for approval before NOAA can proceed with site location and permitting. My bill also requires consultation with the Governor of an applicable state and approval by the appropriate regional fishery management council.
I continue to work on other fisher issues that can help our fishermen expand markets for wild Alaska seafood, including canned salmon in the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program, international food aid and school lunch programs. I was able to get mandatory Country of Origin (COOL) labeling on seafood and I am actively involved in discussions on increasing seafood safety and promoting the health benefits of our abundant sustainable wild fisheries.