Arctic and fisheries policies are intersecting in the Bering Sea, the "garden of Alaska," State Senator Lesil McGuire told the North Pacific Fishery Management Council this month, on behalf of the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission.
McGuire is the co-chair of the commission, created by the state legislature to develop an arctic policy. The commission has been holding meetings around the state, collecting information about the best ways to respond to "unprecedented" changes brought on by melting sea ice, increased international shipping traffic, and the advent of offshore oil development.
The greatest emphasis on fisheries was heard at this summer's session in Unalaska, McGuire said, quoting Mayor Shirley Marquardt's comments from that meeting. Commercial fishing has long been the economic backbone of the Bering Sea, and more needs to be done to ensure maritime safety to prevent oil spills, McGuire told the federal fishery council.
Unalaska/Dutch Harbor for years has been the nation's top fishing port by volume, combining the metric tonnage of groundfish, plus the millions of pounds cited in crab catches and quotas.
All vessels should have good fuel spill response plans, and that includes foreign-flagged ships, said McGuire, saying the Coast Guard needs the tools to protect against environmental disasters caused by illegal "rogue" vessels.