Alaska’s fisheries consistently remain the most abundant and sustainably managed in the nation. The seafood industry is Alaska’s largest private sector employer, with over 63,000 direct jobs created throughout the state. Alaska's commercial, sport, and subsistence fisheries are at the heart of coastal Alaska and the economic livelihood for more than 80,000 Alaskans who are directly, or indirectly, employed in the industry. As diverse as these fisheries may be, the most important common trait seen across the industry and the communities is their dependence on responsibly managed marine resources. These fisheries rely heavily on good science and proper guidance from resource managers.
Senator Murkowski has supported Alaska's fisheries and coastal communities through legislation and her position on the Senate Appropriations Committee, where she sits on the Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee. She has a lead role in the direction and budgeting priorities of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which includes oversight of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). As federal budgets decline, Senator Murkowski has worked to maintain critical funding for fisheries and marine mammal research and management, including emergency fisheries disaster funding in 2014, as well as Yukon and Pacific Salmon Treaty implementation.
Senator Murkowski is also on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the United States Coast Guard. The U. S. Coast Guard has a critical role in monitoring fisheries and enforcing associated regulatory and statutory schemes, as well as conducting search and rescue operations in Alaskan waters. Senator Murkowski actively supports the Coast Guard's budget to ensure that the agency maintains its vital presence in the state.
Senator Murkowski is a co-founding member and co-chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus, which provides a platform for the Senator to educate her colleagues on issues like illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, marine debris cleanup efforts, and ocean observation. All of these issues greatly affect the fishing industry in Alaska and around the world. The ratification and implementation of IUU fishing treaties has been a top priority of Senator Murkowski for multiple Congresses and she has led the efforts to do so, introducing legislation in 2015 to strengthen enforcement capabilities relating to IUU fishing. An essentially identical bill that originated in the House passed the Senate by unanimous consent and has been signed into law by the President.
In addition to Senator Murkowski’s support for Alaska’s seafood industry through her committee and caucus positions, she continues to actively push forward legislation to advance Alaskan fishing interests. Senator Murkowski has worked tirelessly to exempt small commercial fishing vessels from unnecessary and over-burdensome Environmental Protection Agency incidental discharge regulations. Last Congress she was instrumental in securing a three-year exemption in Coast Guard Reauthorization legislation and this Congress introduced stand-alone legislation, S. 371, which would create a permanent exemption.
Similarly, this Congress Senator Murkowski introduced legislation to require Congressional and state approval of any national monuments designated by President. This legislation is another attempt to combat the continued federal government overreach that impedes Alaskan commerce.
After the FDA’s decision in November, 2015, to approve genetically engineered (GE) salmon for human consumption, Senator Murkowski promised to fight back for the health of both consumers and Alaska’s fisheries. In May 2016, Murkowski successfully included a provision in the Agriculture appropriations bill that requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to mandate labeling of GE salmon. She believes that genetically engineered salmon pose a serious threat to the livelihoods of fishermen and the health and well-being of Americans across the nation. Requiring labeling of genetically engineered salmon helps us to maintain Alaska’s gold-standard reputation for years to come, and protects those who want to know what it is they are consuming.
Senator Murkowski has continued her fight to ensure that Russian-origin pollock can no longer be sold in the U.S. market as Alaska pollock. In the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus bill, Senator Murkowski secured language to allow only the term “Pollock” as an Acceptable Market Name and reserve the use of “Alaska” or “Alaskan” as a geographical descriptor for only fish caught in the waters off Alaska, protecting our Alaskan fishermen and the quality, reputation, and credibility of one of the most important species to Alaskan fisheries.