Murkowski, Sullivan Welcome Signing of American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act

President Joe Biden this week signed the American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act into law, bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and cosponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that will create an industry-led committee to assist in the administration of federal fisheries marketing, research, and development grants. 

“Supporting Alaska’s fisheries continues to be one of my top priorities. I’m excited that this bipartisan legislation, which will uplift our fishermen and women and invest in Alaska’s world-class fisheries, has been signed into law,” said Sen. Murkowski. “The American Fisheries Advisory Committee will award grants for research and development projects based on the unique needs of Alaska’s fishing community, ensuring future investments are going to the right communities based on local input. Senator Sullivan and I have worked hard to listen to the needs of our state, so I’m really proud to have shepherded a bill into law which ensures that the voices of fishermen in Alaska and across the nation are heard.”  

“For the past 50 years, Alaska’s and America’s fishermen have lacked a meaningful seat at the table in the important Saltonstall-Kennedy federal grant process—a frustration brought to my attention by a fisherman from Kodiak back in 2015,” said Sen. Sullivan. “I made a commitment to my constituents to get this fixed, and this week, we delivered. With the signing of the American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act, Alaskans will once again have a voice in directing the millions of federal grant dollars toward the priorities and needs of the fishing industry. I thank my colleagues for helping us get this important legislation passed, and for ensuring our fisheries remain the healthiest and most sustainably-managed in the world.”

“I can’t express enough my gratitude to Senator Sullivan, Senator Murkowski, the late great Congressman Young and the other bill co-sponsors for championing the American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act over the finish line,” said Matt Alward, president of the United Fishermen of Alaska. “This effort to restore the original intention of the Saltonstall Kennedy Act was many years in the making and was a tremendous team effort. We look forward to the creation of the committee that will enable the SK grant funding to once again be directed by the US seafood industry to what they feel will best have a positive and impactful effect on all aspects of the seafood industry.”

“I am nearly at a loss for words to describe how excited I am that Senator Sullivan had the foresight to carry this great piece of legislation!” said Bruce Schactler, director of the National Seafood Marketing Coalition and the long-time marketing committee chair of the United Fishermen of Alaska. “With a lot of help from Senator Murkowski and our awesome, late Rep Don Young as well as congressional and industry friends from all over the U.S., Senator Sullivan and his talented staff were able to develop and pass this most valuable American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act! I believe that it has the potential to become one of the most powerful economic development tools for the U.S. seafood Industry since the 200-mile limit.” 

“The recreational fishing industry thanks Sen. Sullivan for his leadership on the American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act, which will give fishermen from all sectors a seat at the table to determine important fisheries funding needs,” said Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association. “In Alaska, recreational fishing supports 12,640 jobs and has a $1.5 billion economic impact. This legislation demonstrates Sen. Sullivan’s continued support for marine fisheries and those whose livelihoods depend on them.” 

The Saltonstall-Kennedy (SK) Act provides funding for fisheries marketing, research, and development. These funds are derived from a portion of fishery import duties. To inform how these funds are allocated, Congress authorized a group of experts from different segments of the fishing industry to advise on commercial fishing problems and needs. Following a 1972 law, the original American Fisheries Advisory Committee was disbanded. In the committee’s absence, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) decides, by its own criteria, who receives grants. In some cases, the priorities of the fishing industry and Alaska fishermen do not match those of NMFS. The American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act would bring back the board of experts, with members chosen regionally and across all sectors of the fishing industry, to bring fishermen back into the process of identifying needs and funding priorities. 

In 2021, NMFS issued 43 grants worth $11 million. The American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act has garnered the support of a number of organizations, including the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, the United Fishermen of Alaska, and the North Pacific Fisheries Association. 

The American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act passed the Senate on March 10 and the House on April 26. The bill was also cosponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).

Related Issues: Alaska's Fisheries