Conservation group honors U.S. senators


U.S. Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) were honored by the Center for Coastal Conservation at its annual legislative conference. Begich received the Center's Lifetime Achievement Award and Rubio was recognized as the group’s Conservationist of the Year.

"These two senators are extraordinary leaders for conservation," Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers said in a statement. "Their commitment to good stewardship of America's marine fishery resources is making a difference from coast to coast to coast."

Begich chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard and has long been an advocate for the management of fishery resources. He was an original co-author of the Fishery Science Improvement Act in the last Congress and is proud that anglers today enjoy salmon fishing in the heart of Anchorage, thanks to the award-winning Salmon in the City program he launched while mayor there in 2007.

Begich is guiding the reauthorization process for the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the overarching federal law governing marine fisheries. He recently delivered the closing remarks at the Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries Conference in which he highlighted some of the difficulties the law has created for recreational fisheries and other challenges, such as the loss of marine habitat through the removal of “Idle Iron” in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Congress has taken some major steps forward to make our marine fisheries sustainable, but we have a lot more to do," Begich said in his remarks, according to the statement. "Sound scientific management needs to be our priority as we work toward reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act this Congress."

Rubio, the ranking Republican on the same subcommittee, was also an original co-sponsor of FSIA. An avid angler, he sees the more than $17 billion economic impact of recreational fishing in the Sunshine State.

“I am honored to be the center's Conservationist of the Year. Federal fisheries management is broken for recreational fishing,” Rubio said in a statement. “It is vital that we address the problems faced by our recreational anglers when Congress reauthorizes the Magnuson-Stevens Act. This industry is a huge economic driver for our state and we must ensure those recreational fishermen who use the waters and precious resources surrounding Florida can continue to enjoy their favorite pastime. I look forward to working with the Center for Coastal Conservation and other stakeholders as we begin this important debate.”