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SJR 13: Urging the United States Congress to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act and urging the United States Department of the Interior to permit Alaska Native organizations and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to co-manage, take, and study marine mammals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

00                       SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 13                                                                    
01 Urging the United States Congress to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act and                                         
02 urging the United States Department of the Interior to permit Alaska Native                                             
03 organizations and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to co-manage, take, and                                        
04 study marine mammals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.                                                            
05 BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF ALASKA:                                                               
06       WHEREAS, between 1965 and 1969, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game                                          
07 reintroduced approximately 400 sea otters in six different locations in Southeast Alaska's                              
08 coastal waterways without a long-term management plan; and                                                              
09       WHEREAS, in the absence of a management plan, the sea otter population in                                     
10 southern Southeast Alaska's coastal waters has grown at an alarming rate; while 5,800 sea                               
11 otters were observed in 2003, an aerial survey conducted by the United States Fish and                                  
12 Wildlife Service in 2010 estimated the population at over 11,000, an apparent population                                
13 growth rate of 13 percent each year; and                                                                                
14       WHEREAS the federal government, which is responsible for protecting marine                                      
15 mammals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 1361 - 1423h) has not                                         
01 established an effective and ecologically balanced management plan for sea otters that serves                           
02 to protect Southeast Alaska's coastal marine ecosystem and shellfish resources that are                                 
03 adversely affected by sea otters; and                                                                                   
04 WHEREAS a growing sea otter population appears to be contributing to ecological                                       
05 imbalances and diminished human subsistence and commercial harvests of Alaska shellfish                                 
06 resources; and                                                                                                          
07 WHEREAS the reintroduced sea otter population has proliferated without                                                
08 management, consuming unquantified yet significant volumes of crab, abalone, urchins, sea                               
09 cucumbers, clams, and other shellfish resources on which Southeast Alaska's human residents                             
10 rely; and                                                                                                               
11 WHEREAS the drastic population growth of the reintroduced sea otters and the                                          
12 current population density of sea otters has, in some areas, depleted shellfish stocks so                               
13 severely that human subsistence, sport, personal use, and commercial harvest of shellfish is                            
14 not permitted because of unsustainably depleted shellfish resources; and                                                
15 WHEREAS many residents of the state's coastal communities depend, directly or                                         
16 indirectly, on the abundance and harvest of fisheries resources; and                                                    
17 WHEREAS the state's coastal communities face substantial challenges in developing                                     
18 economic opportunities for their residents; and                                                                         
19 WHEREAS, because revenue from harvests of the state's fisheries resources                                             
20 contributes significantly to the economies of the state's coastal communities, residents of                             
21 these communities are sensitive to situations that threaten the harvest of fisheries resources;                         
22 and                                                                                                                     
23       WHEREAS Alaska Natives have harvested sea otters since time immemorial; and                                     
24 WHEREAS the Marine Mammal Protection Act denies Alaska Natives their                                                  
25 customary and traditional practice of selling intact sea otter pelts; and                                               
26 WHEREAS the Marine Mammal Protection Act permits Alaska Natives to harvest                                            
27 marine mammals for subsistence if the harvest is accomplished in a manner that is not                                   
28 wasteful; and                                                                                                           
29 WHEREAS the Marine Mammal Protection Act permits Alaska Natives to harvest                                            
30 sea otters for purposes of creating and selling authentic Alaska Native handicrafts and                                 
31 clothing if the sea otters are harvested in a manner that is not wasteful; and                                          
01       WHEREAS, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Alaska Natives may sell                                        
02 handicrafts and clothing made with sea otter pelts; and                                                                 
03       WHEREAS the State of Alaska is a model for the successful and sustainable harvest                               
04 of fish and game resources; and                                                                                         
05 WHEREAS federal implementation of a sustainable sea otter management regime                                           
06 would maintain sea otter populations at a level that allows for ecological balance in the state's                       
07 coastal shellfish habitat and provide for expanded economic activity in the state's coastal                             
08 regions; and                                                                                                            
09       WHEREAS, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the United States Secretary                                    
10 of the Interior is permitted to enter into cooperative agreements with Alaska Native                                    
11 organizations to conserve marine mammals and provide co-management of subsistence                                       
12 resources by Alaska Natives, and such an agreement could include a management plan for the                              
13 harvest of sea otters that also protects shellfish resources adversely affected by an                                   
14 unsustainable sea otter population;                                                                                     
15 BE IT RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges the appropriate federal                                      
16 agencies to work with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Southeast Alaska's                                     
17 Native and non-Native leaders to establish a plan for sea otter management that will maintain                           
18 a balance between sustainable human harvest of shellfish resources and the region's                                     
19 reintroduced sea otter population; and be it                                                                            
20 FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges state and federal                                            
21 agencies, in developing the management plan, actively to consider how the plan may expand                               
22 and enhance small businesses and provide other economic opportunities for Southeast                                     
23 Alaska's residents; and be it                                                                                           
24 FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges the United States                                            
25 Congress to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act to expand the scope of allowable uses                                
26 for harvest of marine mammals; permit an Alaska Native to assign that individual's right to                             
27 take certain marine mammals to any individual with a hunting license issued by the State of                             
28 Alaska; and allow the Alaska Department of Fish and Game or an Alaska Native organization                               
29 authorized under a cooperative agreement with the United States Secretary of the Interior to                            
30 co-manage subsistence uses of marine mammals, including the authority to permit the sale                                
31 and foreign export of sea otter pelts; and be it                                                                        
01 FURTHER RESOLVED that, when an Alaska Native organization or the Alaska                                               
02 Department of Fish and Game certifies to the United States Secretary of the Interior, in                                
03 writing, that a marine mammal poses a threat to Alaska Native subsistence resources and that                            
04 the marine mammal may withstand higher levels of taking without becoming unsustainable,                                 
05 and the Alaska Native organization or the department provides a management plan for the                                 
06 study and taking of the marine mammal designed to protect other fishery resources used for                              
07 subsistence purposes, the Alaska State Legislature urges the Secretary to issue a scientific                            
08 permit to the department or Alaska Native organization to carry out the management plan; and                            
09 be it                                                                                                                   
10 FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges that the scientific                                        
11 permit issued by the United States Secretary of the Interior                                                            
12  (1) authorize the Alaska Department of Fish and Game or an Alaska Native                                               
13 organization to take as many marine mammals as is necessary to protect other subsistence                                
14 fisheries resources;                                                                                                    
15  (2) grant the department or Alaska Native organization the authority to administer the                                 
16 management plan, including the plan's amendment or modification, as circumstances,                                      
17 including changes in the sustainability of the marine mammal or other fisheries resources,                              
18 may dictate; and                                                                                                        
19  (3) permit the department to delegate all or part of the agency's management authority                                 
20 to an Alaska Native organization.                                                                                       
21 COPIES of this resolution shall be sent to the Honorable Paul D. Ryan, Speaker of                                     
22 the U.S. House of Representatives; the Honorable Orrin Hatch, President pro tempore of the                              
23 U.S. Senate; the Honorable Ryan Zinke, United States Secretary of the Interior; and the                                 
24 Honorable Lisa Murkowski and the Honorable Dan Sullivan, U.S. Senators, and the                                         
25 Honorable Don Young, U.S. Representative, members of the Alaska delegation in Congress.