Murkowski Presses Commerce Secretary For Fishery Protections

Senator Tells Locke To “Save Your Dollars” On Spatial Planning Projects In Alaska

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski today highlighted the importance of Alaska’s fisheries in a series of questions with Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke at a Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee hearing of the Appropriations Committee.  “Over half of the fish harvested in the United States comes from sustainably-managed Alaskan fisheries – yet we receive a disproportionate share of the overall funding,” Murkowski said.  “We have the best fisheries science and management in the country and we must not lose that.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) works within the Department of Commerce, conducting research and managing Alaska’s federal fisheries. Cuts being considered to NOAA’s budget may affect fisher stock assessments in Alaska and diminish the data used to set catch limits.  The less accurate the numbers, the more likely quotas will be set more conservatively, which could cost the State and fishing industry lost revenue.

During the hearing, Senator Murkowski gained Commerce Secretary Gary Locke’s assurance that fish surveys will not suffer from the budget cuts being proposed. Secretary Locke guaranteed that he and the White House realize how crucial Alaska’s fisheries are, and that the President has approved an increase in funding.

“We need to make sure our fishery surveys and stock assessments are done and done right, and the expanded observer program supported,” Murkowski said. “Even in this time of reduced budgets and diminished federal dollars, we need to have the best data available to set quotas and operate fisheries that provide almost $6 billion to the Alaskan economy.”

Another issue raised by Murkowski was Marine Spatial Planning, a NOAA program, prioritized by the Administration in the new National Ocean Policy.  Murkowski reminded Secretary Locke that Alaska has not asked for the program nor sees the need for it at this time.  “Our priorities are baseline environmental data collection and mapping,” Murkowski said. “We need to focus there first.  We don’t have the conflicts of the lower 48, among user groups in the ocean that demand spatial planning.  Save your dollars.”