NEWS: Alaska House Responds to Increased Vessel Traffic in the Bering Sea

House Passes a Resolution Calling for Additional Spill Prevention Measures

May 16, 2017

Juneau – Tonight, the Alaska House of Representatives responded to increased vessel traffic in the Bering Sea by passing a resolution sponsored by Representative Dean Westlake (D-Kiana). House Joint Resolution 19 urges the Governor of Alaska and the congressional delegation to include Arctic Marine Safety Agreements in international agreements with Alaska’s coastal neighbors. Arctic Marine Safety Agreements can include additional spill prevention measures and vessel monitoring requirements.

“There is tremendous opportunity in the Arctic, but also enormous challenges. The loss of sea ice and other factors has resulted in a dramatic increase in vessel traffic in the Bering Sea, which is concerning because the subsistence way of life in my region depends on an environment free of pollution,” said Rep. Westlake. “Alaska and the United States have some of the toughest safety and spill prevention mandates on earth but they don’t apply to many of the vessels that make up the new traffic in the Bering Sea. That’s why we need international agreements.”

Vessels transiting in the Bering Sea that don’t call on a U.S. port are considered innocent passage, which means they are not subject to U.S. and Alaska safety or spill prevention measures. The inclusion of Arctic Marine Safety Agreements into international agreements is supported by the Arctic Waterways Safety Committee, which is made up of representatives from  municipalities in the Arctic, marine mammal hunting groups, and ship operators.

“Without these agreements, Alaskan waters and coastlines are vulnerable to mishaps outside of our control” said Rep. Westlake. “The Arctic is a pristine environment that has supported the subsistence needs of my people for thousands of years. I support development in my region and shipping that lowers the costs of goods worldwide, I just want to make sure it is done as safely as possible.”

House Joint Resolution 19 passed the Alaska House of Representatives tonight by a vote of 33-6. The resolution will now be sent to the Alaska State Senate for consideration.

For more information, please contact Jesse Logan at 907-465-3473.


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