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With the U.S. government shutdown now over, lawmakers in the Pacific Northwest are urging the commerce department to allow Bering Sea fishermen to start fishing for Alaska king crab.

Fishermen couldn’t start fishing on 15 October, when the season was supposed to begin, because the government shutdown prevented federal employees at the National Marine Fisheries Services from issuing fishing permits.

Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oreg.), Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.), and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oreg.) all signed a letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who oversees the NMFS, urging her to order the permits issued immediately.

“While we recognize that your agency will be facing a significant backlog of work as a result of the government shutdown, we respectfully urge you to make this a top priority, and expedite the issuance of the IFQ and the IPQ so the fishing season can begin as soon as possible,” lawmakers wrote, referring to the permits the fishermen need.

Delaying the season opening any further, the congressmen argued, costs idle fishing boats as much as $1,000 per day. There is also the risk that the fishermen will miss their chance to export to Asia in time for the holiday season.

“Missing the Asian market when it is in peak demand could result in a price decrease by as much as 20-30 percent, which means millions of dollars in lost value,” the congressmen wrote in their letter. “This would be a crippling loss for the industry and to the thousands of men and women whose livelihood depends on the king crab season.”

On 11 October 2013, Keith Colburn, captain of the Alaska crab-fishing vessel Wizard, testified before the Senate Commerce Committee saying, "We have been racking up bills getting ready to go fishing. If we're tied to the docks waiting for the government, we can't pay those bills. I'm a small businessman in a big ocean with big bills. I need to go fishing.”


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