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Begich Bills Increase Protection for Fisheries, Arctic Research

Bills Focus on Fish, Flying and Fact-Finding in Alaska and the Arctic

U.S. Senator Mark Begich helped move several pieces of legislation through the Senate Commerce Committee today including bills that will increase Arctic research, eliminate pirate fishing practices, improve international fisheries stewardship, and ensure that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has the resources necessary to recruit and retain a strong workforce.  Begich is the chief sponsor of two of the bills.

“As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and chairman of the Oceans Sub-committee, I work to make sure the committee focuses on Alaska priorities,” said Begich.  “As a result of today’s committee meeting, Alaska is one step closer to better fisheries protection, more Arctic research and a having a 21st century workforce for ocean research.”

  • Arctic Research, Monitoring and Amendments Act of 2013:  Begich crafted this bill to ensure the science needed for responsible arctic development was getting done.  It provides authority to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) to issue research grants for a wide variety of arctic science.  The bill is supported by the USARC, the University of Alaska, and others. 
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioner Officer Corps Amendments Act:  Begich introduced this bill to improve NOAA’s ability to recruit and retain officers for the uniformed service which operates its research ships and aircraft, the NOAA Corps.  New programs, such as educational loan repayment authority are paid for by savings generated elsewhere in the bill.
  • Pirate Fishing Elimination Act: The Pirate Fishing Elimination Act, with Begich as an original co-sponsor,  implements a 2009 agreement to prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.  It authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to designate ports of entry for imports of seafood and requires ships importing seafood to submit advance information about their cargo.  This bill was carried over from the last Congress and is a legacy of the work of former senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI.)
  • International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act (IFSEA):  IFSEA, also originally co-sponsored by Begich, strengthens penalties under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and provides the Coast Guard and NOAA with additional authority for searches, inspections, shipment detentions, arrests, and subpoenas to enforce international fishery agreements.  It strengthens provisions against pirate fishing, toughens penalties included in several international fishery agreements, and creates an interagency International Fisheries Enforcement Task Force to investigate pirate fishing activity.
  • Small Airplane Revitalization Act:  Begich is an original co-sponsor of this bill which directs the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue a final rule to streamline the approval of safety advancements for small aircraft.  The bi-partisan bill has eight Republican co-sponsors and six Democratic cosponsors.  The House companion bill recently passed by unanimous consent.

Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments of 2013:  Begich is an original co-sponsor of this bill to establish a national Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) program to deal with HABs which are the cause of red tides and oxygen-depleted “dead zones” in the ocean.

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