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CSHJR 26(RES) am: Urging federal agencies to work with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Southeast Alaska Native leaders, and other interested parties to establish strategies and plans for the sustainable management of the reintroduced sea otter population of Southeast Alaska.

00                CS FOR HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 26(RES) am                                                             
01 Urging federal agencies to work with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game,                                            
02 Southeast Alaska Native leaders, and other interested parties to establish strategies and                               
03 plans for the sustainable management of the reintroduced sea otter population of                                        
04 Southeast Alaska.                                                                                                       
05 BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF ALASKA:                                                               
06       WHEREAS, in the late 1960s, in the absence of a long-term management plan, the                                
07 Alaska Department of Fish and Game reintroduced approximately 400 sea otters to nearshore                               
08 waters in six different locations around Southeast Alaska; and                                                          
09       WHEREAS, without proper management, the sea otter population in southern                                        
10 Southeast Alaska has grown at an alarming rate; and                                                                     
11       WHEREAS more than 10,560 sea otters were observed in 2003, and a 2010-2011                                      
12 aerial survey by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service revealed 20,000 sea otters, for an                         
13 approximate annual growth rate of 12 percent in southern Southeast Alaska and four percent                              
14 in northern Southeast Alaska; and                                                                                       
15       WHEREAS the federal government, which has responsibility for managing sea otter                                 
01 populations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, has not established an                                      
02 effective management plan for protecting the ecosystems affected by sea otters; and                                     
03       WHEREAS, in 1994, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service issued the                                        
04 "Conservation Plan for the Sea Otter in Alaska," which stated that, while the optimum                                   
05 sustainable population range had not been numerically defined for sea otters in Alaska, the                             
06 stock was believed to be in the optimum sustainable population range; and                                               
07       WHEREAS the preface to the 1994 plan states that the plan "will be reviewed                                     
08 annually and revised at least every three to five years"; and                                                           
09       WHEREAS male sea otters in Alaska can weigh up to 100 pounds and average                                        
10 between 60 and 85 pounds, and large females can weigh up to 72 pounds and average                                       
11 between 35 and 60 pounds; and                                                                                           
12       WHEREAS unmanaged high numbers of reintroduced sea otters consume up to 23                                      
13 percent of their body weight each day of crab, abalone, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, clams,                              
14 and other shellfish that the region's human residents rely on for subsistence and commercial                            
15 uses and appear to be contributing to degradation of the ecological balance in many areas,                              
16 leading to diminished human harvests of those important subsistence and commercial                                      
17 resources; and                                                                                                          
18       WHEREAS the dramatically increasing and currently high number of reintroduced                                   
19 sea otters has, in some areas, depleted shellfish stocks to a degree that subsistence, personal                         
20 use, sport, and commercial fishing have been halted because of unsustainable lack of                                    
21 abundance; and                                                                                                          
22       WHEREAS the State of Alaska, on behalf of its residents, has invested large                                     
23 quantities of time and money in developing fisheries resources that are now being consumed                              
24 by sea otters; and                                                                                                      
25       WHEREAS many residents in the state's coastal communities directly or indirectly                                
26 depend on the fishery resources of the state's coastal waters; and                                                      
27       WHEREAS money derived from the harvest of the state's sustainably managed                                       
28 aquatic resources forms a major component of the economies of the state's coastal                                       
29 communities, causing those communities to be particularly vulnerable to situations that                                 
30 negatively affect yields from local resources; and                                                                      
31       WHEREAS Southeast Alaska's municipalities, towns, and villages face substantial                                 
01 challenges in developing broader economic opportunities for their residents; and                                        
02       WHEREAS the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 removed marine mammals                                         
03 from the State of Alaska's management, denying Alaska residents and most Americans the                                  
04 opportunity to harvest marine mammals, even if the denial places animal populations,                                    
05 ecosystems, and the State of Alaska's economy at risk; and                                                              
06       WHEREAS Southeast Alaska's indigenous inhabitants have hunted sea otters since                                  
07 time immemorial; and                                                                                                    
08       WHEREAS, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the regulations                                   
09 adopted under the Act, Alaska Natives are limited to selling only "authentic" and "traditional"                         
10 Native handicrafts; and                                                                                                 
11       WHEREAS sec. 101 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 provides for                                       
12 exemptions for Alaska Natives to harvest marine mammals, as long as the taking is for                                   
13 subsistence purposes and not accomplished in a wasteful manner; and                                                     
14       WHEREAS sec. 101 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 allows for the                                     
15 use of marine mammal pelts for authentic Native articles, including handicrafts and clothing;                           
16 and                                                                                                                     
17       WHEREAS, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, sale of value-added                                    
18 fur products is allowed in both intrastate and interstate commerce; and                                                 
19       WHEREAS the state serves as a model for the management of harvestable resources                                 
20 for sustained yield and sustainable use; and                                                                            
21       WHEREAS implementation of a sustainable harvest management regime for sea                                       
22 otters will serve the dual purposes of maintaining sea otter populations at a level suitable for                        
23 continued ecological balance and expanding economic opportunity; and                                                    
24       WHEREAS sec. 119 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 allows the                                         
25 United States Secretary of the Interior to enter into cooperative agreements with Alaska                                
26 Native organizations for the conservation of marine mammals and the development of marine                               
27 mammal cooperative management structures with federal and state agencies, including the                                 
28 creation of local management plans for the harvest of marine mammals for subsistence use;                               
29       BE IT RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges the United States                                        
30 Secretary of the Interior and appropriate federal agencies to work with the Alaska Department                           
31 of Fish and Game, Southeast Alaska's Native leaders, and other interested parties in the state                          
01 to establish strategies and plans for sustainable management of the reintroduced sea otter                              
02 population of Southeast Alaska; and be it                                                                               
03       FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges state and federal                                      
04 government authorities, in developing those management plans, actively to consider means of                             
05 expanding and enhancing small business and broader economic opportunities for residents of                              
06 Southeast Alaska; and be it                                                                                             
07       FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges federal authorities                                    
08 to consider broadening the scope of allowable uses for sea otters taken for subsistence                                 
09 purposes by replacing the references to "authentic" and "traditional" handicrafts in the Marine                         
10 Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the regulations adopted under the Act with the phrase                                 
11 "Alaska Native articles of handicraft" and continuing the sale of sea otter pelts consistent with                       
12 all other provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.                                                       
13       COPIES of this resolution shall be sent to the Honorable Ken Salazar, United States                             
14 Secretary of the Interior; and the Honorable Lisa Murkowski and the Honorable Mark Begich,                              
15 U.S. Senators, and the Honorable Don Young, U.S. Representative, members of the Alaska                                  
16 delegation in Congress.