September 10, 2009
Chairwoman Nancy Sutley
Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force
Dear Chairwoman Sutley and members of the Task Force:
The Resource Development Council (RDC) is writing to thank you for considering information and feedback from individuals, communities, organizations, and in particular, Alaskans on ocean policy. Your visit to Alaska in August demonstrated what we hope will be a long-term relationship and opportunity for communication and coordination for national ocean policy.
RDC is a statewide, non-profit, membership-funded organization founded in 1975. Our membership is comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska’s oil and gas, mining, timber, tourism, and fisheries industries, as well as Alaska Native corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC’s purpose is to link these diverse interests together to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.
Alaska possesses more coastline than all other states in our nation combined. Subsequently, the impact of any oceans policy will affect Alaska significantly.
RDC urges cautious development of a national ocean policy, and encourages the task force to take into consideration programs that have already been established and proven to protect and manage the oceans. National oceans policy should include measures to address the need for more research and data collection in the oceans. Any ocean policy should coordinate with existing management programs and stakeholders with a focus on avoiding redundancy and maintaining access. Increased bureaucracy would hamper already slow processes, delaying projects vital to Alaska’s economy with no added benefits to the environment.
For example, Alaska already has the best managed sustainable fishery in the world. The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council uses science as the foundation for its decision making process. We ask you to consider what another bureaucratic layer would add. Indeed, fishing in Alaska provides over half of the nation’s harvest of seafood landings, and is a significant employer in the state. Proactively, the Arctic fish management plan was developed closing the Arctic to fishing until further research is completed and data is collected. This action should not imply endorsement of a permanent closure of the area but rather, the need for a better understanding of the ecosystem prior to management decisions being made. Moreover, the need for additional research should not be used to indefinitely delay fishing in the region.
The ocean, specifically the nation’s outer continental shelf, can also go a long way to helping the United States reduce its dependence on foreign sources of energy. Emphasis in any ocean policy must be placed on allowing access to these resources while protecting traditional uses such as subsistence hunting. We urge the administration to include Alaska on the forefront for development of offshore resources, including renewable and non-renewable resources.
In addition to fishing and energy, RDC’s tourism, mining, and transportation members also rely on future access to the ocean for their responsible and ongoing operations. Shipyards, ports and transportation companies all benefit from activities and energy production in Alaska’s waters. The Arctic Ocean, a potential new route for shipping and transportation will present new opportunities for Alaska, and the U.S.
Because of the vast natural resource development potential in Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska, RDC is also very supportive of increased Coast Guard presence. With this presence must come additional infrastructure. New Coast Guard bases in Alaska will improve safety to remote villages, while also increasing national security.
In conclusion, RDC applauds the Administration for seeking input from stakeholders across the nation. Thank you for the opportunity to provide comment.
Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.