Science and accountability urged in fisheries management

Behnken: no one wins if the resource loses

Fisheries and conservation advocates for coastal communities are urging that greater accountability and conservation measures be included in reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

“Both fishermen and managers understand that in the long run no one wins if the resource loses,” veteran harvester Linda Behnken told Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, during a field hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard on Aug. 23 in Soldotna. “As Congress works to strengthen the Magnuson-Stevens Act to support community based fishermen, we firmly believe that maintaining productive fisheries through resource conservation is step one in that process …   The heightened emphasis on resource rebuilding that was central to the last reauthorization is still essential to long term resource health and we ask that Congress recommit to conservation goals,” she said.

Behnken, a harvester for more than 30 years, longlines for halibut and black cod and trolls for salmon with her family out of Sitka, which ranks 15th of all domestic fishing ports in the value of commercial landings. She is the president of the Halibut Coalition and executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

Behnken also asked the committee to address challenges faced by young fishermen and the growing impact to rural communities of lost fishing access.

“Coastal fishing communities need relatively large fleets that provide jobs, revenue and long-term viability,” she said. “Young fishermen need entry-level opportunities, sustained access, and a regulatory system that accommodates the scale of their operations.”

Shannon Carroll, deputy director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, also addressed concerns of coastal communities.

“Congress can help fishermen, processors, coastal communities, and the thousands of small businesses that depend on wild caught, American seafood by investing in the science that allows fishermen to harvest optimum yield on a continuing basis,” Carroll said in his testimony. “We support the move toward more robust annual stock assessments, effective accountability measures, and accurate and precise monitoring and reporting.”

Carroll also cited the Young Fishermen’s Development Act, championed by Sullivan, as an innovative program that would provide competitive grants to foster collaborative state, tribal, regional and local partnerships; promote mentorship opportunities for retiring fishermen and vessel owners; and provide support for regional training and education programs focused on accountable, sustainable fishing and sound business practices.”

The Senate subcommittee heard from a total of 14 people in three panels during the hearing.

The group included Dan Hull, chair of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council; Sam Cotton, Alaska Commissioner of Fish and Game; Reed Morisky, Alaska Board of Fisheries; Spud Woodward, director, Coastal Resources Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Glenn Reed, president, Pacific Seafood Processors Association; Ben Speciale, president, Yamaha Marine Group; Ragnar Alstrom, executive director Yukon Delta Fisheries,; Ben Stevens, Tanana Chiefs Conference; Julie Bonney, executive director, Alaska Groundfish Data Bank; Lori Swanson, executive director, Marine Conservation Alliance; Duncan Fields, Gulf of Alaska Coastal Communities Coalition, and Liz Ogilvie, American Sportfishing Association.

Transcripts of their testimony are online at https://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings