By Shannon Carroll
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) was recently named chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard for the 115th Congress. The subcommittee, among other things, is responsible for addressing matters that concern federal fisheries; it will be a key player in the ongoing effort to reauthorize the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA). The Senate has yet to introduce a MSA bill, despite the House passing a bill in 2015, but rumors have been circulating that a draft bill is in the works.
AMCC believes strongly in the MSA. Its record speaks for itself: Since 2000, fishermen and managers have rebuilt more than 40 stocks nationwide, while Alaskan stocks under its jurisdiction have thrived since Congress passed the act. We are therefore hesitant, under the current political climate, to advocate for wholesale changes to the law. In our view, many of the issues facing Alaska and other regions could be addressed through increased funding for key programs such as at-sea monitoring, stock surveys, and enforcement; better use of existing funds; and improved application and enforcement of current laws and regulations.
Should the Senate decide to reauthorize the law, we are excited to have Senator Sullivan carrying on the “Alaska legacy” by taking a leadership position the process. Since Congress enacted the law, Alaska has always played a lead role in shaping our nation’s fisheries. Under Alaskan leadership, each reauthorization has been a bipartisan effort to improve the sustainability of our fisheries through reforms based upon science and stewardship. And, because of the lead role that Alaskans have played in the process, reauthorization always been an opportunity to directly address the issues facing Alaskan fishermen. In short, each reauthorization of the MSA has made fisheries management better for Alaskan fishermen.
To date, Senator Sullivan has proven to be advocate for Alaska’s fishermen, passing legislation that addresses illegal and unreported fishing, while also working to prevent others from undermining the MSA. This track record hopefully indicates the Senator’s willingness to carry the Alaska legacy by putting fish, fishermen, and fishing communities first. To us, that means sensible, smart reforms that will keep this and the next generation of fishermen on the water. These reforms should include improving monitoring and accountability, strengthening community protections, reducing bycatch, and supporting the next generation of fishermen. We look forward to working with Senator Sullivan and the other members of the 115th Congress.
Shannon Carroll is AMCC’s fisheries policy director. Contact him at email@example.com.