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My Turn: It's not pork, it's fish

Posted: Sunday, October 31, 2010

Joe Miller's ads say "If you want to change Washington, you have to change the people." Alaska's history tells us this is not true. In the U.S. Senate, the way to get things done is through seniority, key committee assignments and the ability to work with people.

The United States Coast Guard Act recently passed calls for mandatory dockside inspections and mandatory safety training. The Coast Guard and fishing safety training organizations that are in place now will not be able to reach every Alaska skipper and vessel, and without that training and inspection, Alaskans will not be able to fish outside three miles. For those who do not fish, this hurts the supply of fish to the public.

Addressing this requirement will require the Coast Guard to be funded to ramp up to reach fishermen and their vessels - and only Lisa Murkowski is positioned with the seat on the Coast Guard Appropriations committee and the track record of aligning key senators of both parties to make sure the Coast Guard is funded to meet this challenge.

This is not pork - it's an investment that will pay off in the public's access to fish.

Neither is the harbor infrastructure Murkowski secured which has benefited hundreds of thousands of Alaskans, sport, commercial and subsistence users as well as visitors who use harbors in Anchorage, Bethel, Bristol Bay, Craig, Dillingham, False Pass, Haines, Homer, Juneau, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Petersburg, Nome, Kodiak, Port Lions, Ouzinkie, Seward, Unalaska, St. Paul, Valdez, Whittier, and Wrangell. Our harbors are a backbone to all facets of our economy in the same way that the federal highway system is for those elsewhere. This is not pork, it's fish.

Naysayers draw attention to Alaska's share of federal spending per capita, but essential services and scientific investment for responsible natural resource use of the public's commons would be better measured per mile of coastline, area of offshore EEZ waters, or acres of federal land. Federal spending in Alaska helps rural communities and bigger cities alike receive basic infrastructure needs, things that folks in the Lower 48 take for granted.

Murkowski was instrumental in getting country of origin labeling for seafood to include wild and farmed fish - a major key to the differentiation of Alaska seafood in the marketplace and increased demand. She helped Alaska salmon fishermen through inclusion in USDA Trade Adjustment Assistance. Now that our prices have risen, this eligibility is still benefiting Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishermen and others. She helped Exxon Valdez claimants' tax situation, saving many claimants from self-employment taxes on the long overdue claims and interest.

The next six years are critical for all Alaskans. With only three seats in play, and never a home game advantage in DC, this is no time to have rookies in the lineup.

I'm filling in the write-in bubble for and spelling out Lisa Murkowski.

• Vinsel is Executive Director of United Fishermen of Alaska, an umbrella association of 38 commercial fishing organizations representing fisheries throughout the state and the federal waters off our coasts.



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