Senate Democrats hosted Deadliest Catch Captain Keith Colburn on the Hill today to say that he can’t go fishing because of the government shutdown.
Colburn was testifying at this afternoon’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the economic impacts of the government shutdown.
“This is the first time in my 28 years of fishing that I haven’t been in the Bering Sea in October getting ready to go fish,” Colburn said “Many fishermen and coastal communities are already facing tough times. This unnecessary shutdown may be the tipping point if the situation isn’t resolved soon… I’m a small businessman in a big ocean with big bills. I need to go fishing.”
The Bristol Bay red king crab season is scheduled to open Tuesday with a quota of 8.6 million pounds, worth $100 million, but since the NOAA biologists who issue needed permits are furloughed, fisheries cannot open, said Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D).
“Alaska prides itself on its fishery management, and our fishermen and fishing communities depend on it. Without the important work that NOAA does, these fishermen can’t do their jobs,” said Begich. “The potential loss of millions of dollars for Alaska fishermen is one of many examples of economic uncertainty facing our country due to this unnecessary shutdown. I thank Capt. Colburn for coming to Washington to highlight the impact the shutdown is having on the economies of our fisheries.”
Begich also said the shutdown could prevent NOAA from doing its routine year-end reallocation of unused quota for cod and pollock and prevent biologists from analyzing data to set harvest levels for next year, resulting in more conservative quotas.
He stressed that if the crabbers miss the lucrative Asian holiday market, American seafood could be replaced with illegal Russian crab.
Other witnesses at the hearing included National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah A.P. Hersman and Aerospace Industries Association president and CEO Marion C. Blakey.
Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) released a report on the shutdown’s impacts at today’s hearing, including unsafe toys and car crashes. From the report:
- With the holiday season just weeks away, consumers should be aware that the safety of children’s toys may not be guaranteed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). All CPSC port inspectors in the field have been furloughed, preventing the CPSC from screening products at ports of entry. CPSC port investigators annually screen thousands of product shipments and prevent millions of potentially dangerous product units from reaching store shelves – including children’s products containing excessive lead content and sleepwear that violates flammability standards.
- The travelling public will have to wait longer for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to finish important safety and modernization updates. The FAA has halted the development, operational testing, and evaluation of technologies and safety standards for NextGen – the agency’s program to modernize the air traffic control system and make the National Airspace System safer and more efficient.
- Services that are the lifeblood to small businesses are on hold, including those performed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and they are having a serious impact on the economic livelihood of independent fishermen. The NMFS determines fishing quotas and permit approvals that are pre-requisites for the beginning of fishing seasons across the country. Furloughs of NMFS biologists who perform these functions threaten to delay and truncate the lucrative king crab fisheries season in Alaska and Washington. The season was set to start on October 15 and typically lasts between one to two months.
- Investigations regularly performed by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are not occurring. When federal investigators are unable to examine transportation accidents, they are prevented from compiling information about mistakes that can contribute to making transportation systems safer. Moreover, the agencies have no way of completing routine investigations of crashes, including to inspect the recent Tesla Model S that experienced a battery fire on October 1.