Seafood processing Fish Radio
March 21, 2013

 Sen. Begich talks visas, Magnuson-Stevens Act and more

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Senator Begich talks work visas, Magnuson-Stevens Act and more.  That’s up after this –

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 It’s tough to handle millions of pounds of fish when an Alaska town has a population of around 2,000 people.  But seafood processing workers will be in short supply again this summer since the J1 Visa program was crimped two year ago. That program was intended to bring foreign students to the US as a cultural exchange program. Instead it became a way for businesses across the country to bring in temporary workers. After widespread complaints in other states, the US State Department reformed the program and banned its use in seasonal processing plants and other factory jobs.  Senator Mark Begich has introduced a replacement bill called H2O that would let workers come to Alaska during peak fishing seasons.

  Cut; The challenge is finding a vehicle to attach the legislation to. The good news is clearly immigration reform I believe is going to happen this year. So we now have a potential vehicle that we can insert this legislation.

 Begich says first priority would be given to local job seekers.

 Cut: If there are people in the area or region they will be hired first, and then there is a process that determines if there are no other available workforces or a non sustainable workforce, they can then use this H2O visa to bring in workers to fulfill the needs of our industry. 4

 Begich says he is working closely with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida , the ranking  Republican member on the Oceans committee  which Begich chairs.   Rubio is also one of the negotiators on the Immigration Bill.

 Hearings on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act began in Congress last week and  more will continue after the Spring recess.

 Cut: We’ll have Lots of issues, catch shares, concerns over the observer program, lack of use of technology by NOAA is an important discussion.  We’ll talk about issues that are impacting fisheries that are not under our control right now — Warming oceans, ocean acidification, and won’t prejudge – ocean policy , such as ocean zoning which Alaska is opposed to.

 Begich says he is still making the fight to stop Frankenfish from going to US markets. He also is fighting fraud within the seafood industry.

 Cut: We are putting forward  legislation that Safe Seafood that toughens labeling requirements and includes consumer protections really focus on getting these seafood bandits who are not telling the truth about where they get their seafood products and trying to get a higher price.    8

 Senator Begich said he was impressed by the enthusiasm at last week’s Boston Seafood show and the prime position Alaska holds is apparent.  His favorite new product?   A fish corndog!

  Learn more about new seafood products at ComFish  —   

 Check out Ocean Beauty’s new website at    In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.