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The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute describes Alaskan seafood as "natural, sustainable, pure." This image is what thousands of small businesses in Alaska's commercial fishing community promise in the intensely competitive world market - a natural, healthy product coming from the pure waters of the North Pacific Ocean.
If we cannot make good on this promise, Alaska's seafood markets are at risk and with them thousands of Alaskan families that draw their livelihood from the sea. Remember the mercury scare of the late '70s that forced fishermen to release large halibut? Recall the single instance of botulism in the early '80s caused by a can of salmon? That one brought the canned Alaska salmon market to its knees.
Now Alaska's commercial fishing community is locked in fierce competition with farmed salmon from Chile. We offer consumers salmon taken by sustainable fisheries from the clean waters of the North Pacific. Salmon farmers can't duplicate that.
To make good on our promise to consumers regarding the quality of Alaskan seafood and to stake our ground in Alaska's competition with foreign-produced, farmed fish, we need to regulate water quality and that includes regulating discharges from cruise ships.
The commercial seafood community owes thanks to those who have brought this issue forward. Beth Kerttula got the ball rolling in the House and 35 representatives signed on to a bill regulating cruise ship waste discharges. With the bill stalled in the Senate, Gov. Knowles has taken the next step by calling a special session to deal with cruise ship wastewater regulation. The cruise ship industry itself acknowledges the need for regulation.
I encourage the Legislature to pass reasonable legislation for cruise ship operating in our waters. We owe it to all Alaskans, including those who earn a living from the sea.
Southeast Alaska Seiners