Industry, politicians react to Stevens' death

Former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens — a champion of Alaska’s seafood industry and an architect of the most significant piece of fisheries-management legislation in U.S. history — died in an airplane crash north of Bristol Bay, in southwestern Alaska, on Monday.

Five of the nine people onboard were killed in the crash. Stevens and the other eight passengers, who included ex-NASA chief Sean O’Keefe, who survived but is listed in critical condition, were en route to a fishing lodge near Lake Aleknagik, about 20 miles north of Dillingham.

On Tuesday, seafood industry representatives and fellow legislators reacted to Stevens’ sudden death.

“Senator Stevens was a champion of the seafood community,” said John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute. “He recognized the importance of both economics and the environment in fisheries management. The Magnuson-Stevens Act is evidence of his commitment to ground-breaking legislation and is an important part of his legacy. The fact that America’s fisheries are considered among the best managed in the world stands as a living tribute to his work.”

“His entire life was dedicated to public service, from his days as a pilot in World War II to his four decades of service in the United States Senate. He truly was the greatest of the Greatest Generation,” said U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

“Senator Stevens was a forceful advocate for Alaska who helped transform our state in the challenging years after statehood,” added U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska). “Senator Stevens’ many contributions to Alaska are enormous and his legacy of fierce devotion to Alaska will be long-lasting.”

In 1976, Stevens and fellow Sen. Warren Magnuson of Washington state crafted the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act, establishing a regulatory framework for the nation’s fisheries and creating an exclusive economic zone prohibiting foreign vessels from fishing within 200 miles of the U.S. coastline.

“The foreign fleets were fishing right up to the shores of our coasts. They just destroyed the ocean perch resource and changed the whole ecology of the North Pacific,” Clem Tillion, a retired Alaska legislator and friend of Stevens, told the Seattle Times on Wednesday.

Now called the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the legislation was reauthorized in 2007, setting a deadline to end overfishing by 2011. U.S. fisheries, especially Alaska’s fisheries, are considered among the world’s best managed.

Stevens talked about the reauthorization process and the importance of responsible fisheries management in an interview with SeaFood Business Associate Editor James Wright for the cover story of the magazine’s February 2007 issue. Click here to read the story.

Strengthening the management of Arctic Ocean fisheries and combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing worldwide were also among Stevens’ causes.

Stevens was the longest-serving Republican senator until he narrowly lost his bid for a seventh term to Begich in November 2008 after he was found guilty of corruption allegations. But five months later, Attorney General Eric Holder dropped the indictment and declined to proceed with a new trial due to prosecutorial misconduct.

Stevens survived another plane crash that killed five of seven passengers, including his first wife, Ann, at Anchorage International Airport in 1978.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. Rescue crews from the U.S. Coast Guard and Alaska Air National Guard arrived on the scene more than 10 hours after the crash occurred on a mountainside in rain and fog.

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