Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski said she secured significant funding for fisheries and oceans priorities in Alaska in the recently-passed Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2023.
The year-end omnibus includes $15 million in Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS) allocations for ocean and river research to be performed by Alaskans in addition to significant programmatic support through agency budgets.
“Our fisheries and oceans provide foundational food security and economic opportunity for Alaskans statewide. I’m proud to champion our marine environment and cornerstone species like salmon and crab in this year-end package,” Murkowski said. “The language I secured provides support for fisheries disaster relief, research, indigenous co-management, surveys, fisheries management, marine debris removal, transboundary watershed monitoring, and many more Alaska priorities. Alaskans advocated for these projects, we worked together to deliver on them, and we can now look forward to their implementation for our state.”
As part of a dynamic effort to address fisheries disasters nationwide, Murkowski successfully requested $300 million in fisheries disaster funding with an additional $300,000 for administration costs. This funding will provide relief to commercial, recreational, and subsistence harvesters impacted by fisheries stock crashes, including in Alaska. The funding will also support research to determine the cause of disasters and provide relief to impacted community governments that rely on shoreside taxes for municipal budgets. Additionally, the bill includes the Fishery Resource Disasters Improvement Act, legislation co-sponsored by the Senator that will improve the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) fisheries disaster program. More specifically, the bill specifies a timeline for action by NMFS, clarifies the declaration process, and expedites review and fund dispersal processes. It also specifies assistance eligibility for subsistence and recreational fishers.
Through her role on the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Department of Commerce, Murkowski supported oceans and climate research through NOAA, NASA, and NSF budgets. She prioritized headquartering research capacity in Alaska and included report language prioritizing increased focus on the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.
Murkowski added new technologies to Alaska’s tool chest like eDNA to monitor struggling salmon runs in the Yukon and Kuskokwim watersheds. She prioritized expansion of existing technologies like citizen science temperature monitoring, electronic monitoring, and ocean-based carbon dioxide removal.
The omnibus also includes her legislation with Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), the Alaska Salmon Research Task Force Act, which directs NOAA to convene a task force to review current research and applied research gaps on migration patterns and declining returns of Pacific salmon in Alaska to support sustainable management.
Murkowski supported multiple cooperative management projects in the omnibus, including marine mammal co-management on the North Slope and implementation of intertribal subsistence fisheries on the Kuskokwim River. This work will help support commercial, recreational and subsistence harvesters and ensure sustainable management.
The Senator successfully requested funding for fisheries management bodies and secured significant funding to support U.S. obligations relating to the Pacific Salmon Treaty. Her language to support transboundary governance between the US and Canada was also included.
The year-end appropriations package increases funding for fisheries data collections, surveys, and assessments to ensure that historical levels of survey coverage are maintained. This includes at least six Alaskan surveys to better understand movement of fish out of historic survey areas.
The bill supports a project by the University of Alaska Fairbanks to conduct baseline marine fishery surveys using emerging technology like autonomous underwater vehicles. It also supports projects for community-based monitoring of salmon and crab in the Yukon River and the Bering Sea.
Further funding is provided for mapping the nearshore and shoreline of Alaska, as well as language directing NOAA to continue coordinating and implementing an interagency mapping, exploration, and characterization strategy for the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. The omnibus also includes a strategy for mapping the Arctic and sub-Arctic shoreline and nearshore of Alaska.
Murkowski’s language to maintain and service the Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) Array, which provides tsunami prediction capacity and directs the National Weather Service (NWS), will ensure that all DART buoys in Alaska, especially those in Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska, are deployed and fully operational.
Furthermore, the omnibus directs NOAA to enhance coverage by the National Mesonet Program in Alaska and other non-contiguous States and Territories to improve weather observation, prediction, and warnings.
Additional funding for the NWS will support staffing efforts, particularly for extreme weather events. A CDS allocation requested and secured by Murkowski will support collaborative research between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and NOAA to improve forecasts for Arctic seasonal weather and sea ice.
Congressionally Directed Spending for Fisheries and Oceans
• Bering Sea: $2.75 million for the Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation to monitor commercial fisheries in the Bering Sea.
• Fairbanks/Statewide: $1 million to the University of Alaska Fairbanks to support research on seasonal weather forecasting.
• Fairbanks/Statewide: $1.75 million to the University of Alaska Fairbanks to conduct baseline marine fishery surveys.
• St. Paul/Statewide: $250,000 to the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island for surveillance monitoring of fisheries and ecosystems.
• Utqiagvik: $2.7 million to the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management for marine mammal and co-management research on the North Slope.
• Yukon River Drainage: $825,000 to the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association to support research, surveys, and community engagement.
• Kodiak: $1 million to the Island Trails Network for removal, recycling, and recovery of debris from the Alaska marine environment.
• Kotzebue: $140,000 to build cyanotoxin analysis capacity at the Native Village of Kotzebue.
• Statewide: $2 million for salmon monitoring in the Yukon and Kuskokwim River watersheds.
• Statewide: $500,000 to the Tanana Chiefs Conference to address the large data gap regarding salmon populations on the Yukon River.
• Statewide: $880,000 for implementation of the Intertribal Federal Subsistence Cooperative Management Program at the Kuskokwim River Watershed.
• Statewide: $1.2 million for ecological monitoring in the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers.