If you’re anything like me, election season is your least favorite season in Alaska. The constant TV and radio ads, calls from pollsters and jabs thrown back and forth between candidates can result in voter fatigue and confusion. Choosing who you should vote for can be challenging even for those who regularly follow politics.
As a lifelong Alaskan and commercial fisherman, I know how important it is to have effective representatives in the U.S. Congress. Although our great state is large in size, we small in population meaning we have the minimum number of elected officials representing Alaska in D.C., less than most other states. I always vote for candidates who can get the most done for Alaska and our coastal communities. It’s one thing to say that you support or oppose something; it’s another to actually produce results.
The seafood industry is Alaska’s largest private-sector employer, representing thousands of small businesses and is a critical component of the Alaskan economy and food security. Like many industries, seafood has felt the economic impacts of COVID. Early on in the pandemic, Sen. Dan Sullivan fought for and secured a significant amount of CARES Act funds for both the State of Alaska and through NOAA fisheries assistance. CARES Act funds are vital for commercial fishermen, processors, charter operators, mariculture developers, and subsistence harvesters. Senator Sullivan also championed changes that allowed commercial fishermen to access the Paycheck Protection Program, a crucial lifeline to many commercial fishing operations.
Not a minute too soon, Senator Sullivan secured a USDA Seafood Trade Relief Program for fishermen impacted by retaliatory tariffs from foreign governments. On Sept.9, USDA announced that $530 million is now available to U.S. fishermen for 19 types of seafood, 16 of which are harvested by Alaskan fishermen. Without Senator Sullivan’s direct involvement, this program would have only covered lobster.
In 2018, Senator Sullivan was able to introduce and pass the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act. VIDA was developed with a large group of stakeholders and successfully exempted small vessel operators and commercial fishermen from excessively burdensome permitting, including “incidental discharge” such as rainwater running off a deck. Although the issue had been around for 15 years, Senator Sullivan secured a permanent fix after just two years in office.
Senator Sullivan worked with colleagues in 2015 to pass the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act into law. An original cosponsor, he was also responsible for steering it through the Senate Commerce Committee. In 2016, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act was signed into law, which included Senator Sullivan’s provision that requires seafood to be a principal negotiating objective for all future trade agreements. In 2018, the Sullivan sponsored Save our Seas (SOS) Act was signed into law to address the marine debris epidemic affecting America’s oceans. Senator Sullivan has also worked to pass legislation to address harmful algal blooms that threaten Alaska’s seafood resources. His work to ensure that only American caught and produced seafood is served in school lunches has helped further Alaska seafood consumption in the U.S.
Recently, Senator Sullivan has been fighting to reinstate NOAA stock assessment surveys that were canceled due to COVID, and he’s working to ensure surveys resume uninterrupted in the future. Additionally, Senator Sullivan has worked tirelessly to ensure that Alaskan seafood is included in USDA seafood purchases for various food aid programs to feed Americans healthy, sustainable protein.
When making your decision at the ballot box, choose candidates that produce more than just talking points. Take the time to look at their background and record to determine what they can accomplish in office. It’s not enough to be outspoken in a state like ours — our elected officials also need to work with colleagues, agencies and administrations to get things done. Senator Sullivan has a proven record of furthering Alaskans’ needs in his first six years in office through two very different administrations. He’s earned my vote.
• Julianne Curry is a fourth-generation Petersburg resident and commercial fisherman. She has been an advocate for the seafood industry in various roles for over 14 years and is a strong supporter of getting Alaskans out to vote. She is also a co-chair of Sen. Dan Sullivan’s reelection campaign.