Sen. Murkowski reintroduces legislation to support coastal economies

Sen. Lisa Murkowski reintroduced a bill and shared support for another, both aimed at supporting coastal communities this week. The legislation is aimed at investing in research and local economies.

Murkowski is bringing back the Ocean Regional Opportunity and Innovation Act. The bill would designate “Ocean Innovation Clusters” for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Each so-called cluster would become a hub to support marine industries. 

Various boats in the St. Paul Boat Harbor on a sunny day, May 2, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

On a call with reporters Thursday, Murkowski said she learned about the idea of clusters about a decade ago on a trip to Iceland and saw how it could benefit Alaska. 

“Ocean ROI establishes regional ocean clusters that facilitate levels of discussion and participation between different stakeholders,” she said. “It effectively takes public, private, and academic (entities) within a geographic region looking to promote economic growth and sustainability within the blue economy.” 

The department would also be able to award grants to establish or fund each cluster. She said her goal with the legislation is to improve communication and collaboration between fishers, researchers, and artists who make their living from Alaska’s coastal economy. 

Murkowski also shared her support for the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine. The bill would streamline communication between federal agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Ocean Acidification Advisory Board, and state, local, and tribal entities that are most affected by climate change. 

Murkowski said she wants to improve the information exchange between government agencies to enhance research into ocean acidification. 

“This is really a research focused approach to ensuring that our oceans remain healthy for generations to come,” she said. “We’re seeing the impacts of climate change, we’re seeing the impacts from increased acidification within our oceans and so to better understand them is what we’re attempting to do through this legislation.” 

Murkowski said both bills have been introduced in previous Congressional sessions. However, she hopes they’ll be passed alongside other climate-related bills as a package this time. 

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