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CSSJR 13(RES): Urging the United States Congress to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act; urging certain federal agencies to permit Alaska Native organizations and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to co-manage, take, and study sea otters; and urging the United States Secretary of the Interior to review evidence and waive certain provisions of the moratorium on taking sea otters.

00                 CS FOR SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 13(RES)                                                              
01 Urging the United States Congress to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act;                                            
02 urging certain federal agencies to permit Alaska Native organizations and the Alaska                                    
03 Department of Fish and Game to co-manage, take, and study sea otters; and urging the                                    
04 United States Secretary of the Interior to review evidence and waive certain provisions                                 
05 of the moratorium on taking sea otters.                                                                                 
06 BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF ALASKA:                                                               
07       WHEREAS, between 1965 and 1969, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game                                          
08 reintroduced approximately 400 sea otters in six different locations in Southeast Alaska's                              
09 coastal waterways without a long-term management plan; and                                                              
10 WHEREAS, in the absence of a management plan, the sea otter population in                                           
11 southern Southeast Alaska's coastal waters has grown at an alarming rate; while 5,800 sea                               
12 otters were observed in 2003, an aerial survey conducted by the United States Fish and                                  
13 Wildlife Service in 2012 estimated the population at over 27,712, an apparent population                                
14 growth rate of 13 percent each year, placing the 2018 population at an estimated 51,058; and                            
15       WHEREAS the federal government, which is responsible for protecting marine                                      
01 mammals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 1361 - 1423h) has not                                         
02 established an effective and ecologically balanced management plan for sea otters that serves                           
03 to protect Southeast Alaska's coastal marine ecosystem and shellfish resources that are                                 
04 adversely affected by sea otters; and                                                                                   
05 WHEREAS a growing sea otter population is contributing to ecological imbalances                                       
06 and diminished human subsistence and commercial harvests of Alaska shellfish resources;                                 
07 and                                                                                                                     
08 WHEREAS the reintroduced sea otter population has proliferated without                                                
09 management, consuming unquantified yet significant volumes of crab, abalone, urchins, sea                               
10 cucumbers, clams, and other shellfish resources on which Southeast Alaska's human residents                             
11 rely; and                                                                                                               
12 WHEREAS the drastic population growth of the reintroduced sea otters and the                                          
13 current population density of sea otters has, in some areas, depleted shellfish stocks so                               
14 severely that human subsistence, sport, personal use, and commercial harvest of shellfish is                            
15 not permitted because of unsustainably depleted shellfish resources; and                                                
16 WHEREAS many residents of the state's coastal communities depend, directly or                                         
17 indirectly, on the abundance and harvest of fisheries resources; and                                                    
18 WHEREAS the state's coastal communities face substantial challenges in developing                                     
19 economic opportunities for their residents; and                                                                         
20 WHEREAS, because revenue from harvests of the state's fisheries resources                                             
21 contributes significantly to the economies of the state's coastal communities, residents of                             
22 these communities are sensitive to situations that threaten the harvest of fisheries resources;                         
23 and                                                                                                                     
24       WHEREAS Alaska Natives have harvested sea otters since time immemorial; and                                     
25 WHEREAS the Marine Mammal Protection Act denies Alaska Natives their                                                  
26 customary and traditional practice of selling intact sea otter pelts; and                                               
27 WHEREAS the Marine Mammal Protection Act permits Alaska Natives to harvest                                            
28 sea otters for subsistence and for purposes of creating and selling authentic Alaska Native                             
29 handicrafts and clothing, if the sea otters are harvested in a manner that is not wasteful; and                         
30 WHEREAS, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Alaska Natives may sell                                              
31 certain handicrafts and clothing made with sea otter pelts; and                                                         
01 WHEREAS, to take a sea otter in the state, current federal law requires an individual                                 
02 to reside along the North Pacific or Arctic Ocean coasts and to possess 25 percent Alaska                               
03 Native blood quantum, and there will be fewer individuals who meet those requirements in                                
04 the future; and                                                                                                         
05 WHEREAS the legal import of language in the Marine Mammal Protection Act,                                             
06 which cites "authentic Native articles of handicraft and clothing" and "significantly altered,"                         
07 may not be clear to Alaska Native hunters and craftspeople; and                                                         
08 WHEREAS the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to develop a                                           
09 management plan for sea otters in consultation with any Alaska Native organization, even                                
10 though Alaska Native organizations have approached the service about developing a                                       
11 management plan; and                                                                                                    
12 WHEREAS implementation of a sustainable sea otter management plan would                                               
13 maintain sea otter populations at a level that allows for ecological balance in the state's coastal                     
14 shellfish habitat and provide for expanded economic activity in the state's coastal regions; and                        
15 WHEREAS the State of Alaska is a model for the successful and sustainable                                             
16 management and harvest of fish and game resources and is best situated to manage sea otters                             
17 along the state's coast; and                                                                                            
18 WHEREAS, after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the National Marine                                            
19 Fisheries Service is the next best situated state or federal agency to manage the state's sea                           
20 otter population because the agency already manages other marine mammals and fishery                                    
21 resources that are being adversely affected by sea otters; and                                                          
22 WHEREAS, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the United States Secretary                                          
23 of the Interior is permitted to enter into cooperative agreements with Alaska Native                                    
24 organizations to conserve marine mammals and provide co-management of subsistence                                       
25 resources by Alaska Natives, and an agreement could include a management plan for the                                   
26 harvest of sea otters that also protects shellfish resources adversely affected by an                                   
27 unsustainable sea otter population; and                                                                                 
28 WHEREAS, rather than the United States Fish and Wildlife Service managing sea                                         
29 otters in a manner that allows for ecological balance and human harvest of fishery resources,                           
30 the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has a record of protecting sea otters to the                                
31 detriment of other fishery resources and human needs, resulting in a situation in which the                             
01 fishery resources that sea otters feed are imperiled and the sea otter population itself placed at                      
02 risk of collapse;                                                                                                       
03 BE IT RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges the United States                                              
04 Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the federal Marine Mammal Commission, to                                
05 review current data and scientific evidence relating to sea otter abundance and the detrimental                         
06 effects of sea otters in Southeast Alaska under 16 U.S.C. 1371(a)(3)(A), and, after reviewing                           
07 the evidence, waive the requirements of 16 U.S.C. 1371 to allow the taking of sea otters in                             
08 Southeast Alaska; and be it                                                                                             
09 FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges the appropriate                                            
10 federal agencies to work with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Southeast                                      
11 Alaska's Native and non-Native leaders to establish a plan for sea otter management that will                           
12 maintain a balance between sustainable human harvest of shellfish resources and the region's                            
13 reintroduced sea otter population; and be it                                                                            
14 FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges the United States                                            
15 Congress to transfer responsibility for sea otter management in the state from the United                               
16 States Department of the Interior to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game under 16 U.S.C.                             
17 1379, or, if not to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, to the National Marine Fisheries                            
18 Service in the United States Department of Commerce; and be it                                                          
19 FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges state and federal                                            
20 agencies, in developing a management plan, actively to consider how the plan may expand                                 
21 and enhance small businesses and provide other economic opportunities for Southeast                                     
22 Alaska's residents; and be it                                                                                           
23 FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges the United States                                            
24 Congress to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act to provide for an ecologically                                       
25 balanced sea otter management regime instead of protecting sea otters at the expense of                                 
26 marine ecosystems and fishery resources; expand the scope of allowable uses for harvest of                              
27 sea otters; permit any Alaska Native residing in the state who is a member of a federally                               
28 recognized tribe under 25 U.S.C. 5130 or who is enrolled under the Alaska Native Claims                                 
29 Settlement Act, to take sea otters; provide that "authentic native articles of handicrafts and                          
30 clothing" under 16 U.S.C. 1379 include sea otter pelts that may be sold without restriction;                            
31 and allow the Alaska Department of Fish and Game or an Alaska Native organization                                       
01 authorized under a cooperative agreement with the United States Secretary of the Interior or                            
02 the National Marine Fisheries Service to co-manage subsistence uses of sea otters, including                            
03 the authority to permit the sale and foreign export of sea otter pelts; and be it                                       
04 FURTHER RESOLVED that, when an Alaska Native organization or the Alaska                                               
05 Department of Fish and Game certifies to the United States Secretary of the Interior or the                             
06 National Marine Fisheries Service, in writing, that a sea otter population poses a threat to                            
07 Alaska Native subsistence resources and that the population may withstand higher levels of                              
08 taking without becoming unsustainable, and the Alaska Native organization or the department                             
09 provides a management plan for the study and taking of the sea otters designed to protect                               
10 fishery resources used for subsistence purposes, the Alaska State Legislature urges the United                          
11 States Secretary of the Interior or the National Marine Fisheries Service to issue a scientific                         
12 permit to the department or Alaska Native organization to carry out the management plan; and                            
13 be it                                                                                                                   
14 FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges that the scientific                                        
15 permit issued by the United States Secretary of the Interior or the National Marine Fisheries                           
16 Service                                                                                                                 
17 (1)  authorize the Alaska Department of Fish and Game or an Alaska Native                                               
18 organization to take as many sea otters as is necessary to protect subsistence fisheries                                
19 resources;                                                                                                              
20 (2)  grant the department or Alaska Native organization the authority to                                                
21 administer the management plan, including the plan's amendment or modification, as                                      
22 circumstances, including changes in the sustainability of the sea otter population or fisheries                         
23 resources within the same ecosystem, may dictate; and                                                                   
24 (3)  permit the department to delegate all or part of the agency's management                                           
25 authority to an Alaska Native organization.                                                                             
26 COPIES of this resolution shall be sent to the Honorable Paul D. Ryan, Speaker of                                     
27 the U.S. House of Representatives; the Honorable Orrin Hatch, President pro tempore of the                              
28 U.S. Senate; the Honorable Ryan Zinke, United States Secretary of the Interior; and the                                 
29 Honorable Lisa Murkowski and the Honorable Dan Sullivan, U.S. Senators, and the                                         
30 Honorable Don Young, U.S. Representative, members of the Alaska delegation in Congress.