KODIAK — Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski squared off with her challengers Wednesday for the first time, fielding criticism and questions from Democrat Ray Metcalfe and independents Margaret Stock and Breck Craig at the biennial Kodiak fish debate.

Moderators quizzed the candidates on nuts-and-bolts fisheries policy during the lively, two-hour discussion at the port town. And a few only-in-Alaska questions were thrown in as well, like when the candidates were asked to name their personal seafood preferences.

Murkowski, who sported Xtratuf boots and a fish pin, was quick to demonstrate her familiarity with fish-specific issues like discharge rules, Alaska's aging fishing crews, and Canadian mines that threaten the state's fish habitat. But her rivals tried to put her on the defensive by touting their own fisheries experience, highlighting Congress' dysfunction, and stressing how seriously they take climate change, which threatens Alaska fisheries through the process of ocean acidification.

Joe Miller, the Republican-turned-Libertarian candidate, did not attend even after criticizing the incumbent senator for "hiding" from the public by not participating in more debates.

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