Senator Lisa Murkowski today hosted top oceans and marine officials at the U.S. Capitol to discuss the many issues surrounding the Maritime Boundary Line (MBL) and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU) -- from the government's mission of enforcement to protecting vital marine resources like Alaska's $4.5B fishing industry. In the second briefing on maritime issues requested by Senator Murkowski in as many years, officials from the Department of State, Coast Guard, NOAA, and the fishing industry shared their organizations continued engagement on the unique issues surrounding the MBL.
Senator Begich and Congressman Young joined Senator Murkowski in welcoming the panel by reminding them of Alaska's deep connection to the MBL -- not only as Alaska's border with Russia but as an issue of great meaning and potential for the nation's fishing industry.
"I've had an opportunity to talk to folks back home about what's going on within the crabbing industry, the impact of prices when the Russians are engaged in a probably stepped up level of [illegal] fishing activity," said Senator Murkowski. "It piqued my interest some time ago, to try to better understand where we are with our maritime boundary lines. The idea of coming together and having some of the folks who are really on the front line -- if you will -- address us as a delegation is really important."
USCG Commander Daniel Schaeffer outlined his duties as Chief of Fisheries Enforcement, describing how consistent presence in the region as well as cooperation between countries have helped changed the current state of the MBL and reduced the number of vessels illegally fishing in Alaskan waters.
"So how we got from the MBL being this massive threat of [overharvesting] the resources, in a very blunt way, of the North Pacific to what we have today with few incursions," said CDR Schaeffer. "To where we had hundreds of vessels high sea drift-netting in the North Pacific to now where we have only one or two sightings a year. The reason it works, the reason we are there, is because of the efforts of State Department, because of the efforts of the Coast Guard, because of the efforts of NOAA, it's about beyond the typical enforcement methods."
Senator Murkowski's commitment to Maritime issues continues to grow through her role as co-chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus -- to not only educate her Senate colleagues but also Capitol Hill staff. Additionally, she has recently co-sponsored the International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act and the Pirate Fishing Elimination Act -- legislation that will put in place measures to address illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) fishing activities which harm U.S. fishing interests.
Today's Maritime Boundary Line Brief included Ambassador Dave Balton of the State Department, CDR Dan Schaeffer of the Coast Guard, Mr. Bruce Buckson of NOAA Fisheries and Mr. Mark Gleason of the Bering Sea Fishing Industry.