Murkowski, Young Urge Commerce Secretary to Use Flexibility to Help Open Alaska Crab Fisheries

Alaska Lawmakers and House Committee Chair Press Cabinet Secretary to Use Flexibility to Process Permit Applications

The Bristol Bay red king crab fishery in Alaska is scheduled to open next Tuesday, October 15th, but before crab fishing boats are allowed to fish, they must be issued quota permits by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) – which the Department
of Commerce has shuttered for issuing permits until the government is funded.

In response to this problem, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Congressman Don Young (R-AK) and House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) today wrote Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, asking her to use her authority under federal law to responsibly manage the 2013 crab season and avoid any possible delay or
cancellation, saying:

“We are writing to urge you to use your authority consistent with the Antideficiency Act to responsibly manage the 2013 Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab fisheries.  We are aware that other federal agencies have utilized available balances from prior years to continue essential operations and we believe that such flexibility should be applied in the instant case where fishermen are fully paying for the costs of managing these fisheries.  Delays in opening the Bristol Bay red king
crab fishery may result in significant economic harm to fishermen and processors who are required by statute and regulation to fully reimburse your agency for the administration of the allocation of this public resource… 

“The Antideficiency Act allows federal agencies to except activities that are necessary to protect life or property, and we believe that authority extends to the management of a public resource where the users have paid fees that entirely cover the management of such resource.  As administered by your Department through NOAA, the Bering Sea
and Aleutian Islands Crab Rationalization Program includes a Cost Recovery Program that fully covers the management of the covered crab fisheries. On August 1, 2013, NOAA published its “Notification of fee percentage” for the Program, and included the following statement:

The Program includes a cost recovery provision to collect fees to recover actual costs directly related to the management, data collection, and enforcement of the Program.

“We believe you have adequate authority to proceed with the issuance of IFQ and IPQ shares for the BSAI crab fisheries and ask that you direct NOAA to begin this process immediately to ensure that the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery is opened on October 15.  The timing of this opening will ensure proper management of this public resource, and the ability of crab fishermen and processors to pay the full cost for the administration of this program.”

The entire letter from Senator Murkowski and Reps.Young and Hastings to Secretary of Commerce Pritzker is attached.