With the Bering Sea King Crab season set to open in just four days, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today met with Captain Keith Colburn, of the popular Discovery Channel Show "The Deadliest Catch," to discuss the devastating effect the government shutdown could have on the Alaska crab industry.
The Bristol Bay Red King Crab is scheduled to open Tuesday with a quota of 8.6 million pounds, worth $100 million, but since the NOAA biologists who issue needed permits are furloughed, fisheries cannot open.
"Alaska prides itself on its fishery management, and our fishermen and fishing communities depend on it. Without the important work that NOAA does, these fishermen can't do their jobs," said Begich. "The potential loss of millions of dollars for Alaska fishermen is one of many examples of economic uncertainty facing our country due to this unnecessary shutdown. I thank Capt. Colburn for coming to Washington to highlight the impact the shutdown is having on the economies of our fisheries."
Estimates say that even a short term delay could cost a fleet $80,000 a day just to wait. A long term delay could be even more costly, forcing crabbers to miss the lucrative Asian holiday market. Estimates say that missing the season could cost $5 million or more. American seafood risks being replaced with Russian crab to fill the void -- much of which is illegal.
Captain Colburn was in Washington, D.C. to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee, of which Begich is a member, this afternoon about the impacts.
"This is the first time in my 28 years of fishing that I haven't been in the Bering Sea in October getting ready to go fish," Colburn said "Many fishermen and coastal communities are already facing tough times. This unnecessary shutdown may be the tipping point if the situation isn't resolved soon I'm a small businessman in a big ocean with big bills. I need to go fishing."
At the hearing Begich also raised the potential loss of millions of dollars to other Alaska fishermen if the shutdown prevents NOAA from the routine year-end reallocation of unused quota for cod and Pollock. He is also concerned the furlough will prevent biologists from analyzing data to set harvest levels for next year, resulting in more conservative quotas.
As Senator from the nation's "flying-est state," Begich also raised concerns about the closure of the Federal Aviation Administration's Aircraft Registration office in Oklahoma City. "In Alaska, Cessnas and Pipers are the equivalent of SUV's down here. They are our station wagons, our taxi cabs," Begich said. "But they can't be sold if the registry isn't open. It's like the aviation DMV office is closed."
Begich noted closure of the FAA Registry has national implications, and could impact the delivery of up to 130 aircraft valued at almost $1.5 billion. He said accurate and up to date Registry information is essential to allow the FAA to carry out its safety and oversight duties that are critical to the protection of human life and property.