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Murkowski Highlights Value of Alaska’s Fisheries and Coastal Communities at International Summit

At State Department, Senator Says “We Have a Good Story to Tell”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski joined her Senate Oceans Caucus co-chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) at the Department of State’s “Our Ocean” Conference to lead a discussion on America’s leadership in managing fisheries on a sustainable basis. In her joint remarks, Murkowski said “We have a good thing going” with fisheries management in Alaska – citing it as a model for fisheries worldwide – while also discussing the importance of recently-passed treaties to combat pirate fishing and the continued vigilance needed on the issue of tsunami debris.

Senator Murkowski opened her side of the colloquy with Senator Whitehouse by discussing the issue of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, its incredible harm to Alaska’s crab fisheries and the importance of the Port State Measures Agreement that passed in April with the help of her leadership, saying:

One of the areas where we have seen very negative impact is the illegal harvests of king crab by the Russians. This has been a problem for us since 1990.  In 2011, NOAA seized 112 metric tons of illegally harvested Russian King Crab that was being shipped to US markets through the Port of Seattle and 99 million pounds of illegal Russian King Crab. American crappers lost an estimated $600 million, coastal communities have lost millions in tax revenue, 40% of King Crab sold in world markets during 2012 was from illegal Russian harvests. It not only impacts the communities, it jeopardizes the fisheries, but it also brings in other illicit activities, whether through human and drug trafficking – and these things absolutely have to stop. That’s the importance of the Port State Measures agreement, the first binding global agreement that sought to combat IUU fishing and to prevent illegally caught seafood from getting to market.

So how we deal with this in a coordinated and coherent fashion is very important. I’m going to mention just one intercept that happened this past month, it was a boat that was detained by the US Coast Guard for illegal drift fishing in the north Pacific. But the coordination that happened here was the boat was spotted by a Canadian aircraft, with the assistance of Japanese monitors, it was seized by the US Coast Guard, with the support of Chinese law enforcement officials. So it is everybody coming together to really work with multilateral cooperation. We’ve got a great team with the US Coast Guard, with NOAA, the State Department, it really does make a difference.

Later in her remarks, Senator Murkowski spoke about the continued impacts of tsunami debris on Alaska’s shoreline, saying:

Another issue that the Senate Oceans Caucus has been working on in a bipartisan way is how we will deal with marine debris. And as we know, this is enormous in its size and its scope. The ocean knows no borders, no boundaries. The earthquake in Japan and the tsunami that followed in 2011, was a tragedy on many, many levels. We all know more than 16,000 lives lost, devastating coastal communities.

Approximately 5 million tons of debris was swept into the ocean, from enormous docks that washed ashore in Oregon or the barrels and Styrofoam and buoys in my state. I had the opportunity to go to the shoreline outside of the community of Cordova and see what had come to our shores. Because that’s where the border of the ocean ends, where it meets that land. 3 years later, the debris continues to arrive on Alaska’s very expansive coastlines. Communities are volunteering, they’re stepping up to coordinate clean-up efforts to remove what are unprecedented levels of debris. Again this is an example of cooperation. The Japanese government has very graciously provided $5 million to help those 5 Pacific coastal states with tsunami origin debris impacts, which is greatly, greatly appreciated. We’ll have the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill on the floor this week and contained in that measure is the $6 million that will go towards marine debris. Again, it seems like a drop in the bucket but working together we are making little bits of headway there.

Senator Murkowski closed her remarks by stressing the need for strong, collaborative efforts to develop and maintain sustainable fisheries worldwide:

We’ve got great fisheries management in the North Pacific.  But these things don’t happen by accident.  We will soon have the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization before us.  This established regional fisheries management, a pretty unique system that allowed federal and state officials to work with fisheries stakeholders resulting in strong and sustainable fisheries. 

I think we have a good story to tell, when we talk about our sustainably-managed fisheries, but again: it takes a coordinated effort.

Watch the full video of Senator Murkowski’s speech with Senator Whitehouse here.

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