U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka talks fish during Bethel visit

Kelly Tshibaka
U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka during a campaign stop in Bethel on Oct. 6. (Gabby Salgado/KYUK)

U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka stopped in Bethel Thursday as part of her campaign vying for Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s seat.

Tshibaka said that the jurisdiction of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is too broad. That federal council currently manages waters off Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. She said that Alaska deserves its own separate council. Tshibaka noted that three separate councils manage fishing in the Atlantic.

“The Bering Sea is not the Pacific Ocean, like, even geographically,” Tshibaka said. “Maybe common sense is really where we need to go with this.”

She said that an additional council would be an opportunity to include more Alaska Native seats. If elected to the U.S. Senate, Tshibaka said that she’d advocate for the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which is the main federal legislation that governs fisheries. A reauthorization bill recently passed the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee.

“I don’t want to get any more texts and emails from friends in rural Alaska to say, ‘I only have two salmon to feed my family this year,’” Tshibaka said. 

Tshibaka said that she would support a provision in the current reauthorization bill that would add two Alaska Native seats to the North Pacific council. She also supports a revision in the bill that would strike out the words “to the extent practicable” from rules limiting bycatch. That move aims to reduce the incidence of commercial fishing vessels catching species other than the one they intended.

Many advocates, including Rep. Mary Peltola, say that eliminating bycatch is critical for strengthening the diminished salmon runs subsistence users in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta depend on.

Tshibaka said that she’d like more electronic observations on commercial vessels to enforce more specific bycatch rules.

“We know that subsistence is a priority for the state, and yet we’re not prioritizing it. And I would really like to see us move past the place where we’re just doing research and we move into resolution and action,” Tshibaka said.

Tshibaka skipped a U.S. Senate debate in Kodiak on fishery issues on Oct. 4. She said that she was notified of the date “maybe 10 days or two weeks before” and wasn’t able to change her travel plans. The Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, which organized the debate, told KYUK that it sent initial invitations, including a date, to candidates on Aug. 18, more than six weeks in advance.

Tshibaka was at a fundraiser in Texas with Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters the day before the event.

Tshibaka is endorsed by former president Donald Trump, who has repeatedly made the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Tshibaka said that she still has “a lot of questions” about the election. There has been no evidence that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

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