Sen. Mark Begich speaking to the Sitka Chamber recently. He says Sen. Rubio has to "put down a scorecard" on Magnuson-Stevens," but the final bill will support Alaska's fisheries.

Sen. Mark Begich speaking to the Sitka Chamber recently. He says Sen. Rubio has to “put down a scorecard” on Magnuson-Stevens,” but the final bill will support Alaska’s fisheries.

Sen. Mark Begich says the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act will not be moving forward without Alaska’s input.

Begich, a Democrat, chairs the Oceans and Fisheries subcommittee in the US Senate. He says Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s bill (introduced on September 16) was intended to lay out language important to the Republican’s home state. It won’t necessarily be the final language in the bill.

Magnuson-Stevens regulates all commercial and sport fishing in federal waters.

Begich spoke on Friday (9-19-14) with KCAW’s Robert Woolsey.

Begich – I think what he’s trying to do is say to his folks in Florida, Look, here’s what I’m fighting for for you. Which makes sense. He needs to put his scorecard down as he works on these issues. We see this as not in conflict, but potentially complementary. To me, when I was told about it, it was not a big issue. He’s doing what he needs to do to make sure his folks in Florida understand what he’s working on. Because when you talk to folks in Florida, when you say Magnuson-Stevens Act, most people would say, What is that about? When you say Magnuson-Stevens, everyone knows it’s about Alaskan fisheries and those other guys.

KCAW – One of the things I think that is of most concern to the Fishing Community Coalition and the Alaska fishing organizations that are involved in that coalition is the language including flexibility and timelines for rebuilding stocks. I think they’re concerned about reversing some of the progress that’s been made toward ecosystem management and rebuilding fish stocks in past reauthorizations. Should these folks be worried that Rubio’s bill represents a potential rollback of some of these protections?

Begich – I wouldn’t necessarily worry — wholesale worry. There’s going to be some debate on some of these species that were not getting the rebuilding timetables hit at 10 years — that’s basically what they were set at. So we’re going to have to address that in some way, but we’re going to have to be careful. As you know, and your listeners know, the reason you had a hard number at 10 years is because you wanted a goal to shoot for. And we’ve been very successful, especially in Alaska, rebuilding stocks by having that goal. But that has not necessarily worked everywhere in the country because not all species can be rebuilt in a 10-year span, or be on a 10-year horizon. So we’ve got to take a look at that issue, but we have to be careful that we don’t undo it, because then you’ll never get to where we need to go: Rebuilding the stocks of certain species so they’re back into sustainability.

That’s Alaska Sen. Mark Begich speaking Friday (9-19-14) with KCAW’s Robert Woolsey about the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which is currently before the senate in a bill sponsored by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

As chairman of the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard subcommittee in the senate, Begich has control over the future of the bill — but his own future has yet to be decided. He’s in a tight, heavily-financed race to retain his senate seat against Republican challenger Dan Sullivan.

KCAW News took advantage of Sen. Begich’s phone call to ask him about a few other issues important to local voters.

First, the Obama administration’s efforts to transition logging on the Tongass to second growth, and the connection to the Big Thorne old-growth timber sale on Prince of Wales Island.

We should do that sale, because as identified, it is one of the last big ones. But we should do it. I know some of the environmental groups aren’t supportive and they’re suing again. But it can’t be all-or-nothing. Part of the framework was this transition from old-growth to second-growth, but you’ve got to have a mix. Now, saying that, I think in a lot of ways the administration has failed here. They started this in their first year, and here we are 6 years later and they can’t get off the dime, for some reason. I criticized the Obama plan last time because it was just a frame — they forgot to fill in the picture. They didn’t really say, Here’s how it’s going to happen, step A, step B, step C. They just said, Here’s the frame, and maybe it will all work someday magically.

And finally, though international headlines have been focused the last few days on Scotland, US involvement in Syria has been increasing. Sen. Begich was one of only 8 Senate Democrats who voted against President Obama on the issue of arming Syrian rebels to resist the Islamic State.

Begich said he gave the president a flat-out “no” when he called to ask for support. And he’s concerned about the 1,000 American military advisers now on the ground in Syria.

These advisers aren’t walking around unarmed — they’ve got guns. These are our people, putting themselves in potential harm’s way, in a situation where Arab countries need to be stepping up to the plate in a much more aggressive way. And so I disagree with the president on this one — on arming the rebels — a big mistake and a slippery slope.

Find additional coverage of Republican senate candidate Dan Sullivan here, and here.