Murkowski Introduces Working Waterfronts Bill to Boost Coastal Workforce, Fisheries, and Infrastructure

Bill will support the economies, climate resiliency, and energy capabilities of coastal communities

Today, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), introduced the Working Waterfronts Act, legislation which includes more than a dozen provisions aimed at boosting the workforce, energy and shoreside infrastructure, food security, and economies of coastal communities in Alaska and across the country. The bill will also support efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change on coastal communities and strengthen federal conservation research projects.

In October 2022, Senator Murkowski began soliciting feedback from Alaskans to help draft the Working Waterfronts legislation.

“The blue economy continues to be a growing and thriving industry full of opportunity for coastal communities in Alaska—and that’s why I’m focused on bolstering the workforce and strengthening shoreside and coastal infrastructure through the Working Waterfronts Act. I want to thank the many Alaskans who engaged with my team and I to craft this legislation. You shared your thoughts and ideas with me—and we have a strong product,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “Our state is home to 66,000 miles of coastline, with thousands of people reliant on our rivers and oceans that can house successful fishery operations, tourism opportunities, mariculture, and more. To ensure that we capitalize on the opportunities that exist through the blue economy, we need to ensure that we have the infrastructure and workforce to support our goals. This bill won’t just help young fishermen and innovative entrepreneurs but will boost research and climate change mitigation efforts as we work towards a more sustainable future. I’m proud to introduce this bill that holistically invests in coastal communities and the blue economy.”

“The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) thanks Senator Murkowski for her continued efforts to support Alaska’s commercial fishing industry, which provides tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic impact across the state. The Working Waterfronts Act would make impactful changes that are needed now, such as expanding access for fishermen and processors to USDA loans, grants for improving waterfront infrastructure that benefit commercial fishermen, and creating a new program to improve maritime workforce development. These changes, along with many others in the Act, provide needed help the Alaska seafood industry, a critical pillar of Alaska’s economy,” said Greg Smith, Communications Director at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI).

"Senator Murkowski’s Working Waterfronts Act addresses many of the issues with today’s US seafood industry. The provisions in the Act will help the industry compete in a global market that has long ago passed us by with their subsidies that address labor, financing, technology and marketing. Thankyou Senator Murkowski for beginning the process to assist the US seafood industry in so many ways,” said Bruce Schactler, director of the National Seafood Marketing Coalition.

“Senator Murkowski's comprehensive working waterfronts legislation is a beacon of hope for Alaska's blue economy. By safeguarding our vital maritime hubs we're not just protecting our past, but also paving the way for a prosperous future. Alaskans need these types of forward-thinking initiatives, ensuring coastal communities thrive, maritime industries flourish, and ocean resources are maximized for sustainable growth,” said Peter Warden, Director, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation Startup Accelerator.

“The Working Waterfronts Act addresses many of the challenges facing our coastal communities. The Network applauds Sen. Murkowski’s comprehensive approach to dealing with those challenges and her commitment to finding solutions. Our coalition welcomes the resources to modernize and upgrade shoreside infrastructure and better understand and address the effects of ocean acidification and climate change on marine life and coastal communities. This bill will also encourage workforce development, including entry-level opportunities for small-scale fishermen. The Network supports continued efforts to build a strong foundation for a thriving U.S. fishing industry and the Blue Economy, and we look forward to putting our efforts behind this bill until it becomes law,” said Robert C. Vandermark, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network.

Bill Highlights:

Investing in Energy and Shoreside Infrastructure

  • Tax Credits for Marine Energy Projects supports projects that produce electricity from waves, tides, and ocean currents.
  • Fishing Vessel Alternative Fuels Pilot Program provides resources to help transition fishing vessels from diesel to alternative fuel sources such as electric or hybrid, and funds research and development of alternative fuel technologies for fishing vessels.
  • Rural Coastal Community Processing and Cold Storage Grant increases support for community infrastructure such as cold storage, cooperative processing facilities, and mariculture/seaweed processing facilities by establishing a competitive grant program through the Department of Commerce for rural and small-scale projects.
  • Working Waterfronts Development Act establishes a grant program for infrastructure improvements for facilities benefitting commercial and recreational fishermen, mariculturists, and the boatbuilding industry.

Boosting Maritime Workforce Development and Blue Economy

  • Maritime Workforce Grant Program establishes a Maritime Workforce Grant Program, directing the Maritime Administrator to award competitive grants supporting entities engaged in recruiting, educating, or training the maritime workforce.
  • Fishing Industry Safety, Health, and Wellness Improvement (FISH Wellness) Act expands the Coast Guard and CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Fishing Safety Research and Training (FRST) Grant Program to include projects supporting behavioral health in addition to the projects currently supported dedicated to occupational safety research and training.
  • Ocean Regional Opportunity and Innovation Act establishes at least one ocean innovation cluster in each of the five domestic NOAA Fisheries regions, as well as the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico regions. The ocean cluster model fosters collaboration between different sectors – including public, private, and academic – within a geographic region to promote economic growth and sustainability in the Blue Economy.

Supporting Sustainable and Resilient Ecosystems

  • Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act enhances collaboration on ocean acidification research and monitoring through ongoing mechanisms for stakeholder engagement on necessary research and monitoring. This provision would also establish two Advisory Board seats for representatives from Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, Tribal organizations, and Tribal consortia affected by ocean acidification and coastal acidification.
  • Vegetated Coastal Ecosystem Inventory establishes an interagency working group for the creation and maintenance of a comprehensive national map and inventory detailing vegetated coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems. This inventory encompasses habitat types, species, ecosystem conditions, ownership, protected status, size, salinity and tidal boundaries, carbon sequestration potential, and impacts of climate change.
  • Marine Invasive Species Research and Monitoring provides resources and tools to mitigate the impact of invasive species and help limit their spread by authorizing research and monitoring grants for local, Tribal, and regional marine invasive prevention work. This includes training, outreach, and equipment for early detection and response to invasions.