Alaska Fishing Communities

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Congressman Jared Huffman
1517 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515

January 28, 2021

Dear Congressman Huffman,

As the new Congress begins deliberations regarding its agenda for the 117th congressional session, the following participants in the Alaska Fishing Communities (AFC) coalition would like to bring to your attention general issues of concern in the upcoming reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA).  We wanted to thank you for your efforts in putting together an MSA Discussion Draft and would recommend that when the time is appropriate you hold a listening session in Alaska to get a better understanding of the issues affecting the nation’s largest and commercially most important fisheries.  In subsequent communications, AFC intends to provide more detailed comments and recommendations on various MSA provisions. 

AFC is a coalition of like-minded participants including communities, boroughs, harvesters, recreational anglers, tribal members, and Community Development Quota (CDQ) entities that came together in 2019 to protect and promote the interests of Alaska communities dependent on all aspects of harvesting and processing fishery resources from State and Federal waters off Alaska. AFC’s efforts are guided by seven core principles regarding conservation of Alaska’s fishery resources and protecting the sustained participation of Alaska coastal communities in these resources.  Included is a one-pager that provides more information about AFC participants, our structure and coalition principles.

AFC members have experienced first-hand the challenges of fisheries-dependence in the 21st century, including the effects of climate change, bycatch prioritization, stock variability and destructive fishing practices in domestic and international waters, all of which result in highly fluctuating, unstable, or declining fisheries.  Loss of fish stocks, fishing opportunities and fishery related revenue adversely impact fishermen, fishery dependent businesses and Alaska’s fishing communities. Moreover, these impacts are disproportionally devastating to vulnerable rural populations including Alaska Natives. 

AFC believes that the MSA must be modernized.   In recent years, management decisions reflecting the economic imperatives of achieving optimum yield or ensuring the profitability of fisheries that use bycatch (National Standard 1) have been prioritized while the small boat fisheries and the mixed resource base of fishery-dependent communities have steadily declined. 

The MSA should also be updated to require more consistent consideration of the ecosystem stresses resulting from climate change.  These are generally not being fully considered when fishery allocations and management decisions are made. This is, in part, because MSA makes it difficult to respond quickly to unexpected climate change events.  For Alaska fishing communities climate change is immediate and real.  Bering Sea ice is receding, water temperatures are rising, and ocean acidification is accelerating.  

As illustrated, to respond to these challenges and provide regional councils and fisheries-dependent communities with tools necessary to ensure the sustained participation of these communities in the nation’s fisheries, AFC believes that various sections of the MSA should be strengthened so its interpretation and implementation are more broadly equal.  In Alaska’s case, the coastal boroughs and communities that participate in AFC constitute approximately one-third of our State’s population.  Thus, in the coming decades, Alaska’s well-being will be intimately linked to an improved Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act

The MSA Discussion Draft is a promising starting point for the detailed and important conversations to come, and we appreciate the substantial effort undertaken to gather feedback and produce a draft for consideration.  We are also encouraged by recent executive orders issued by the incoming administration to advance racial equity and support for underserved communities, as well as to protect the public health and environment and restore science to tackle the climate crisis, as these align with our concerns.  We are hopeful that the new Administration and Congress will work in a coordinated manner to confront the challenges facing our fisheries.   We look forward to further communications with your offices regarding comments and recommendations on specific MSA provisions as Congress undertakes this much-needed endeavor.

Sincerely,

ALASKA LONGLINE FISHERMEN’S ASSOCIATION

ALASKA MARINE CONSERVATION COUNCIL

ALEUT COMMUNITY OF SAINT PAUL ISLAND

ALEUTIANS EAST BOROUGH

CENTRAL BERING SEA FISHERMEN’S ASSOCIATION

CITY OF SAINT PAUL ISLAND

DEEP SEA FISHERMEN’S UNION

FISHING VESSEL OWNERS ASSOCIATION

KODIAK CRAB ALLIANCE COOPERATIVE

KONIAG, INC.

OLD HARBOR NATIVE CORPORATION FISHERIES COMMITTEE

OUZINKIE COMMUNITY HOLDING, INC.

SALMON STATE

SOUTHEAST ALASKA GUIDES ORGANIZATION

UNALASKA NATIVE FISHERMEN’S ASSOCIATION

UNDER SIXTY COD HARVESTERS

UNITED FISHERMEN’S MARKETING ASSOCIATION

Cc:       Senator Lisa Murkowski

            Senator Dan Sullivan

            Congressman Don Young