Legislation to allow a minimal amount of incidental harvest of marine mammals may provide the appearance of temporary help to some fishermen, but it fails to take any meaningful action to help fishermen or protect our fisheries and oceans in the long term, said Oceana North Pacific Region Director, Jim Ayers, today.
Ayers' remarks came following another attack by Senator Murkowski in response to an Oceana lawsuit that seeks to have the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) form teams of fishermen, scientists and conservations to complete a congressionally mandated study.
“This short term action is useless except for political benefit,” Ayers said, and repeated his call that Alaska Fishermen would be better served in the long run if Murkowski would join Senator Stevens in efforts to provide NMFS the money and direction for research and community dialogue that are critical to protect our ocean ecosystems and maintain Alaska fisheries.
The Oceana lawsuit asks that NMFS meet their congressionally mandated requirement of forming stakeholder “take reduction teams” and developing plans to reduce marine mammal injury and mortality. “The Oceana lawsuit does not seek to shut down any salmon fisheries in Alaska,” said Ayers. Murkowski's legislation will not help Alaska fishermen and may only delay the formation of stakeholder groups to complete a plan of how to reduce, if necessary, marine mammal bycatch while maintaining fisheries. If there is a problem with the timeline Congress required or lack of Congressional funding for NMFS research, we urge Senator Murkowski to address these real problems. We stand ready to work with him.
"Ocean resources including Alaska fisheries are in big trouble. We need to work together and we need Murkowski doing his job to bring people together and provide NMFS with the resources to maintain and protect the fisheries,” Ayers said. Oceana will continue to work with fishermen and NMFS to develop plans to protect our oceans and our fisheries. By working together we can begin to overcome the problems facing our Alaska fishermen.