Alaska Rep. Pelota Taking On Trawling Bycatch Concerns

Alaska’s lone seat in the House of Representatives hasn’t lacked firepower when it comes to fishing industry issues. Late Rep. Don Young (R), who held his seat in Congress for 49 years before his 2022 passing, was introducing fishing-related bills right until his sudden passing. His successor, Rep. Mary Peltola (D), is also vocal about protecting Alaska’s critical fishing resource. Politico wrote a profile of Peltola taking on the state’s controversial trawler bycatch issues. Here’s a sample of how Peltola has made it a priority to prevent several delicate species such as crab, salmon and halibut from being affected by bycatch in the nets of Alaska pollock trawlers:

As Alaska’s lone House representative, Peltola is now in a position to make sweeping changes to the way the council operates. She is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee and has supported an overhaul of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, legislation passed in 1976 that governs how federal fisheries are managed and that has only been updated twice before. If it passes, the bill could alter the balance of power between the trawl industry and the smaller commercial operators and subsistence fishermen in Alaska.

The bill would add two tribal seats to the council, which would give subsistence users greater influence over council decisions and policy making. It would also enable the federal government to further reduce bycatch quotas — a move the trawl industry says would have catastrophic effects on Alaska’s economy.

“We’re looking at a multi-species collapse,” Peltola said. “And it’s not just subsistence, but these smaller mom and pop fisheries. The commercial industry isn’t just these industrial players. It’s so many Alaskan families. It is part of our identity.”