March 08, 2011
“It’s tough to overstate the importance of fisheries in Alaska and I am proud to be the new chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard,” said Sen. Mark Begich. “If today’s hearing is any indication of what’s to come, we can expect continuing and productive discussions on these critical elements of our economy and the future of our oceans.”
The subcommittee heard testimony from witnesses about changes to the MSA and the impacts they are having on our fisheries and the individuals, businesses and communities who depend on them.
“I regularly boast that Alaska has the best managed fisheries in the world and today’s hearing is a reminder to us all that we must balance responsible stewardship of our fisheries for future generations with the needs of individuals businesses and communities who rely on them,” Begich added after the hearing.
At Begich’s invitation the committee heard testimony from Stephanie Madsen, a former chair of the North Pacific Council and current director of the At-sea Processors Association based in Juneau.
Madsen focused her testimony on three key issue areas addressed in the 2007 MSA reauthorization: 1) the requirement for fishery management plans to include Annual Catch Limits (ALCs) for fisheries,; 2) the requirement fo Accountability Measures in fishery management plans to ensure that ACLs are not exceeded; and 3) NOAA Fisheries' catch share policy and Limited Access Privilege Programs (LAPPs) as a subset within catch share options. (Read Madsen's full testimony addressing each of these key areas.)
Also at the hearing today the committee heard testimony from Assistant NOAA Administrator for Fisheries Eric Schwaab that the U.S. is making good progress toward meeting the mandate to end domestic overfishing. Dr. Douglas DeMaster the Acting Director of Scientific Programs and Chief Science Advisor of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was present.
“We know that nearly $31 billion in sales and as many as 500,000 jobs are lost because our fisheries are not performing as well as they would if all stocks were rebuilt,” Schwaab said. “While we are turning a corner toward a brighter future for fishermen and fishing communities, many fishermen are struggling in part as a result of years of decline in fishing opportunity.”
Schwaab said that NOAA is committed to working with fishermen and communities during this period of transition.
Schwaab said our nation’s fisheries have been vital to the economics and identities of our coastal communities for hundreds of years. According to the most recent estimates, U.S. commercial and saltwater recreational fisheries support almost two million jobs and generate more than $160 billion in sales.
Schwaab talked about fishery management challenges, including improving collection, analysis, and accuracy of scientific information used to manage both recreational and commercial fisheries. He indicated that NOAA Fisheries will continue to work hard with the regional fishery management councils, fishermen and the coastal communities to increase confidence in the management system and ensure productive and efficient fisheries.
“We have turned a corner in our management of fisheries in this country, and the sacrifices made and being made by so many who rely on this industry are showing great promise,” Schwaab said. “As we end overfishing and rebuild stocks, we will increase the economic output of our fisheries, improve the economic conditions for our fishermen, and create better, more stable and sustainable jobs and opportunities in our coastal communities.”
Also presenting testimony were William R. Bird an Attorney at Law and Private Angler; Vito Giacalone the Policy Director of the Northeast Seafood Coalition; and Dr. William C. Hogarth the Interim Director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography University of South Florida.
John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV is Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
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