Hawaii & Alaska
Alaska House Representative Don Young during a debate before the 2018 election.

Alaska's Don Young, finfish aquaculture opponent, files to run again for US Congress

The commercial fishing industry knows Alaska's only member of the US House of Representatives well, and they may not be saying goodbye to him anytime soon either.

The commercial fishing industry knows Alaska's only member of the US House of Representatives well, and they may not be saying goodbye to him anytime soon either.

Don Young, a Republican, turned 86 this month, is the longest-serving member of the House at 46 years, and, on Friday, he filed for reelection, Alaska Fish Radio (AFR) reports. He said he wanted to quickly dismiss any rumors that he might not run again.

If re-elected in 2020, it will be his 25th term. Young, who has survived some tough elections, tallied 53% of the vote in 2018  to defeat Independent challenger Alyse Galvin (47%).

Young, who led the House effort to pass the foundational Magnuson-Stevens Act way back in 1976, helping to kick foreign fishing fleets out of Alaska waters the same year, now has his eye on another target. He wants to keep finfish aquaculture out of Alaska's offshore waters, he told AFR.

“It’s not just finfish there, it’s flatfish too, because they’ve got to feed them and it will contaminate our waters," he said, clarifying that he supports the production of shellfish and kelp in state waters.

On May 1, Young introduced the Keep Fin Fish Free Act (HR 2467), which would prohibit the Interior and Commerce departments from authorizing commercial finfish aquaculture operations on federal waters (three to 200 miles from shore). He said he believes fish farms will "contaminate" the ocean where Alaska's wild-catch fishing industries continue to operate.

Young's bill, which so far has no cosponsors, runs counter to the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act, a bill that is expected to be re-introduced soon by Mississippi Republican senator Roger Wicker. AQUAA has been supported by the president Donald Trump administration and also some of the seafood industry's most powerful companies, including Cargill, Pacific Seafoods and Red Lobster.

On another issue of importance to the commercial wild-catch industry -- the potential development of a large copper, gold and molybdenum mine on Alaska's Bristol Bay, site of the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery -- however, Young has not been an ally. On June 19, he voted in an effort to defeat a budget bill amendment that would block efforts by the US Army Corp of Engineers to complete an environmental risk assessment of the Pebble Mine. The amendment, by California Democrat Jared Huffman and the bill in which it was contained were both passed by the lower chamber.

Young suggested that the permit process should be allowed to go forward and accused Huffman of ignoring science that predicted that the mine would be safe.

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