Murkowski’s Work Bolstering Alaska Fisheries Sustainability and Alaska, Arctic Nautical Needs Passes Appropriations Committee

Full Committee Passes 2015 Funding Bill including Murkowski’s Arctic Charting, Electronic Monitoring, Tsunami Debris Provisions

WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate Appropriations Committee today passed the Commerce, Justice and Science 2015 funding bill containing several provisions written by Senator Lisa Murkowski – and included by her in the final funding legislation released Monday – to improve and maintain Alaska’s world class fisheries, Arctic navigation, tsunami debris and other priorities for the state’s federal waters.  The legislation passed today now heads to the United States Senate for final approval.

“It is critical that fisheries managers in Alaska have the resources necessary to conduct the stock assessments and surveys they need to set quotas that ensure our wild, abundant fisheries remain sustainably managed,” said Senator Murkowski.  “I want to thank my Committee colleagues for seeing the worth of improving our Arctic awareness by improving the mapping of the region and protecting the farmers of our sea – especially the electronic monitoring technology that we need without burdening our fishing fleet.”

To listen to Murkowski’s comment on her provisions prior to the bill’s passage, click here.

The funding in this bill supports the North Pacific Council, the Pacific Salmon Commission and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission – all key components in the management of Alaska’s fisheries.  Senator Murkowski’s efforts also address the need for nautical charting in the U.S. Arctic, led to the inclusion of funding and report language to expedite the development of electronic monitoring technology to improve data collection in the small boat fixed gear fleet and ensure greater emphasis on clean-up of tsunami debris along Alaska’s coast.

Boosting Arctic Navigation:  The CJS funding bill contains $25 million for hydrographic surveys – or sonar mapping – of the nation’s coastline.  Attached to that funding amount is a provision from Senator Murkowski emphasizing the need for Arctic mapping:

“The Committee directs NOAA to report within 60 days of enactment on progress made to survey and prepare navigational information for the Bering Straits region and the Arctic.  NOAA is further directed to report on hydrographic activities planned for fiscal year 2015, including: vessels to be utilized, the areas to be surveyed, and the remaining gaps in the Arctic region.”

Aiding Alaska’s Federal Coastline Fight Against Tsunami Debris: Senator Murkowski has made a point of noting the thousands of miles of Alaskan coastline managed by the federal government – arguing that the federal government should adequately fund clean-up efforts for federal lands.  Today’s bill includes $6 million nationally, and adds Murkowski’s language:

“The Committee supports the requested level for NOAA's Marine Debris Program but is concerned that NOAA has placed insufficient emphasis to clean up and dispose of marine debris resulting from the 2011 Japanese tsunami. Within funds provided, NOAA shall give priority for clean-up and disposal activities on Federal lands within States inundated with debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.”

Electronic Monitoring for Alaska’s Fishing Fleet: The bill includes $4 million in funds for implementing electronic monitoring systems on fishing vessels.  Last year, Senator Murkowski told NOAA that using cameras would be more efficient than placing an observer on-board.  The bill just finalized also includes language from Senator Murkowski placing a premium on getting this project moving forward, reading:

The Committee encourages [National Marine Fisheries Service] to support the use of experimental fisheries permits, to continue the expeditious development of electronic monitoring equipment and procedures, and to use the experimental fisheries permits as the bridge between cooperative research and the implementation of electronic monitoring technology by regulation as a component of the Observer Program for small boat fixed gear fleets.

Sustainably Managed Seafood: Senator Murkowski is continuing to fight 3rd party outside groups seeking to judge the sustainability of Alaskan seafood, Senator Murkowski made sure to add language to this year’s bill prohibiting federal agencies from using outside groups to certify the quality of fish caught in U.S. waters, reading:

The U.S. leads the world in responsibly managed fisheries and aquaculture, and the Committee supports NOAA’s activities to inform consumers about our nation’s sustainable fisheries through the agency’s Fish Watch program.  However, the Committee is concerned that the exclusive use or recognition of third-party certifications for seafood sustainability by the Department could have unintended consequences for various domestic fisheries.  The Committee acknowledges that some U.S. fisheries voluntarily utilize third-party seafood sustainability certification schemes but believes it is not the Department’s role to adopt such certification schemes when doing so could result in the Department arbitrarily influencing the domestic seafood market.  The Committee believes support for third-party certifications is best presented in non-governmental forums.  Therefore, the Committee directs the Department not to adopt, use, or promote any third-party certification scheme for seafood sustainability, but to continue providing consumers with independent and accountable information generated from within the Department.

Other Alaskan priorities in today’s finalized bill:

  • Consistent funding for salmon management activities – today’s bill maintains funding at $30.2 million, rebuffing the Obama administration’s attempt to cut funding by $3 million.
  • $28.2 million for the National Data Buoy Center, along with Murkowski language prioritizing the need to curb the amount of outages among the buoy network.
  • Consistent funding for fishery stock assessments – today’s bill includes $72.2 million in expanded stock assessments and $24.4 million for survey and monitoring projects within the Fisheries Research and Management Account