Rep. Mary Peltola: Why Language, Representation and Reliable Data Matter to Fishing Communities
Don’t get too distracted by Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola’s poetic description of her favorite place to commercial fish for salmon in Alaska in the opening moments of this video interview.
The only federal representative for the state that produces nearly 60 percent of our domestic wild seafood harvest joined Ocean Strategies for a deep dive into national and state fish politics.
Peltola’s first term followed a special election to fill the seat and the remaining term of the late Rep. Don Young, who was a longtime leader in federal fishery policy. Now serving her first full term in the House, fishery policy is no less a priority for Peltola, despite the congressional roadblocks standing between us and the next Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization.
Peltola made it clear she is not shying away from the hard conversations. In fact, she’s encouraging more fishermen to have them.
“It can’t just be elected people doing this work. It has to be people like you,” Peltola says. “There has to be an outside push. The system that we have in America is one where the elected officials are not the thermostat, we’re the thermometer. The public is the thermostat. We need as much pressure as ever from fishermen to make sure there’s the political will.”
In the interview, Peltola explains how she is prioritizing fishery policy despite a gridlocked Congress. NOAA is charged with making regular updates to guidelines for the MSA’s 10 National Standards. The Secretary of Commerce reviews fishery management plans, plan amendments, and regulations to ensure that the regional councils’ proposals are consistent with the National Standard guidelines. On Peltola’s list are six of those ten: Optimum Yield, Best Available Science, Allocations, Variations of Catch, Communities and Bycatch.
And the Department of Commerce just released its Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to make guideline updates to 3 of the 10 National Standards. Fishermen can read the notice here and provide comments here until September 12, 2023.
Hard conversations are nothing new to Peltola, and just as her campaign made clear, she’s focused on fishing, jobs and community.
“We have to have our commercial fishing sector. It is a huge pillar of our Alaskan economy… It’s our identity for most of us. And it’s a family business. And it’s everything to us, It’s not only our identity, but our identity back through the generations. Like if you look at Petersburg, they’re Scandinavian fishermen. It’s in their blood. Almost every community in Alaska, it’s part of our identity in one way or another.”
Watch the video and sign up for our policy reports for more details and the full interview.