Sen. Lisa Murkowski questioned cuts considered for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at a Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee hearing of the Appropriations Committee. In a release, Murkowski states that the considered cuts to NOAA’s budget may affect state fisher stock assessments and diminish the data used to set catch limits. She says that less accurate numbers could result in more conservative quotas that could lose revenues for the state and fishing industry.
“Over half of the fish harvested in the United States comes from sustainably-managed Alaskan fisheries – yet we receive a disproportionate share of the overall funding,” Murkowski said. “We have the best fisheries science and management in the country and we must not lose that.”
During the hearing, Murkowski gained Commerce Secretary Gary Locke’s assurance that fish surveys will not suffer from the budget cuts being proposed. Locke guaranteed that he and the White House realize how crucial Alaska’s fisheries are, and that the President has approved an increase in funding.
“We need to make sure our fishery surveys and stock assessments are done and done right, and the expanded observer program supported,” Murkowski said. “Even in this time of reduced budgets and diminished federal dollars, we need to have the best data available to set quotas and operate fisheries that provide almost $6 billion to the Alaskan economy.”
Murkowski also raised NOAA’s Marine Spatial Planning program, which prioritized in the new National Ocean Policy. She reminded Locke that Alaska has not asked for the program nor sees the need for it at this time. “Our priorities are baseline environmental data collection and mapping. We need to focus there first. We don’t have the conflicts of the lower 48, among user groups in the ocean that demand spatial planning. Save your dollars.”