Compass: Alaska's fisheries need real help from D.C., not meddling

Since my two GOP competitors for the U.S. Senate are skipping the Kodiak debate on fisheries, here's what they'll miss: my 40-year experience in the fight for Alaska's fisheries has equipped me to take on Washington, D.C., to keep our fish abundant, our decision-making local, and our fishery industry vibrant.

To Alaska and my own family, fishing means jobs. Over 50,000 people work as harvesters and processors. Dutch Harbor, Naknek and Kodiak are leading ports in volume and value of product landed. The other communities where I've lived - the panhandle, Prince William Sound, the Arctic, etc. - depend on the availability of and the right to fish. The sockeye fishery in Bristol Bay is ranked first globally, attracting thousands of harvesters - including my crewmember son William - and summer processors.

Every statewide election, Kodiak's Chamber of Commerce sponsors the major debate focused on fisheries. Slated for May 23 during Crab Festival, it was to air on APRN. One of my Republican competitors said he had another commitment. The other did not respond.

I'm going to Kodiak and will visit with fishing families there and throughout Alaska. Fisheries are a resource and a way of life that must be protected.

Washington is distant. For generations we've battled there for better management of our fish. Since the 70's, I've championed policies based on strong data and science.

A closing stipulation in our 1959 Statehood Act was control of our fish. Foreign fishermen poached offshore for most of the 20th century. One of my first efforts in D.C. was for the 200-mile limit. In 1976, in helping pass the Fishery Conservation and Management Act (FCMA), we designated all offshore area from the three-mile state-controlled zone up to the 200-mile mark as U.S.-owned and off-limits to foreign fishermen. That win produced Alaskan jobs.

During the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster, as a Cordova official, I worked closely with the fishing community to achieve enhanced recovery, prevention, claims compensation, and science. I was a co-founding board member of Cordova's Prince William Sound Science Center and helped launch the Seward Alaska SeaLife Center and the Kodiak Fishery Industrial Technology Center.

Within Gov. Hickel's cabinet, I helped fight for EPA permits for our processors and helped establish Community Development Quotas. Consequently, many coastal communities finally acquired a share of fish and more Alaskans found jobs. We also seeded funding for a new Arctic-capable research vessel, the Sikuliaq, which will home port in Seward.

As the former Chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and as Lt. Governor, in cooperation with our Pacific and Arctic neighbors, I've pushed for better science and to reduce foreign bycatch. We've invested in jump-starting our king salmon fisheries. And I will continue urging, with increased shipping in the Aleutians, the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean, that we must strengthen prevention efforts and rapid response to oil spills. I also made a tough call, guided by my reading of the Constitution, to keep a set-net initiative off the ballot - now being tested in court.

I have, and will always work for cheaper power in our coastal communities to help keep them competitive. Hydro in Cordova, wind, wind-diesel, tidal, wave and geothermal have helped - or can.

On deck in DC is the reauthorization of the amended FMCA ("Magnuson-Stevens Act,") and Alaska is at bat. The Last Frontier needs a stronger voice in DC that will lead on fisheries and insist that regulations be based upon sound science. Step back EPA: job-killing regs you deem nice are crippling.

Outside failures are being used to take away our power. Distant interests aggressively lobby for changes that will harm our commercial fisheries: shuttering some or dismantling communities that have employed generations. America needs a real ocean policy; much of what's dispensed by the Obama Administration offers a "solution in search of a problem." We have a proven fisheries management structure. D.C. should send more resources, not more rules.

Mead Treadwell is a candidate in the Alaska Republican primary for U.S. Senate.