Bering Sea Cod Co-Op Wins Final Congressional Approval

Allows fishermen to end dangerous, wasteful race for fish

Bering Sea cod fishermen will be able to end the dangerous and wasteful “race for fish” thanks to House concurrence with legislation passed earlier by the Senate. S.1609, the Longline Catcher Processor Subsector Single Fishery Cooperative Act, authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to approve a cooperative for longline cod catcher processors in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. The measure now goes to the White House where President Obama is expected to sign it into law.

Alaska Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski joined Washington’s Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray in sponsoring the Senate bill, which was supported by Congressman Don Young and Washington representatives in the House. The bill, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent last month, was supported by all the current participants in the fishery including the six Alaska-based Community Development Quota corporations.

“This bill will enable Bering Sea cod fishermen to invest their time and resources more efficiently, reduce costs, improve safety by ending the ‘race to fish,’ and promote effective, sustainable fishing practices,” Begich said. “It was supported by all the participants in the fishery including the Alaska CDQ groups, and will help preserve jobs and the resource.”

“I am pleased to see that this legislation will become law. It was broadly supported by all sectors of the fishing industry and will allow the fleet to stop racing for fish and cooperatively manage their harvest,” Murkowski said. “It allows for the development of another successful catch share program in the North Pacific, and I am proud to work with my Alaska and Washington State colleagues in the House and Senate to advance this important piece of legislation.”

The Bering Sea cod freezer longline fleet includes 36 vessels with more than 1,200 fishing and processing jobs. They land over 150 million pounds of cod each year worth over $100 million. It was the first cod fishery in the world to be certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. Fishing companies, vessel owners, and related businesses participating in fishery formed the Freezer Longline Coalition in 2005 to establish the cooperative and improve the safety, conservation and management, and socio-economic benefits of their fishery.