U.S. Sen. Mark Begich dropped into Kodiak in the middle of Crab Fest, but while seafood was on his plate, crab wasn’t.

For two hours Saturday, Begich held the first of several Alaska meetings on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The act defines federal fisheries, but it must be renewed by Congress every decade.

Begich heard from Kodiak fishermen and industry experts who told him that Kodiak’s primary concern is keeping a share of the Gulf of Alaska’s fishing industry.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is considering a catch share program that will divide the Gulf’s groundfish catches just as halibut and crab have been.

City/borough fisheries adviser Denby Lloyd was among those who told Begich that interest is growing in some kind of community organization to ensure some share of the Gulf’s catches continue to come to Kodiak.

Begich said he’s interested in the idea of community organization, and he doesn’t plan to hurry to vote on the Magnuson-Stevens Act. “There’s not going to be a rush to judgment here,” he said. “It’s not just about getting it done, it’s about getting it done right.”

The House of Representatives is expected to pass a draft Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization more quickly than the Senate, where Begich is chairman of the subcommittee on oceans, atmosphere, fisheries and the Coast Guard.

In addition to the Kodiak hearing, Begich expects to hold a sportfish-oriented hearing in Kenai and at least one other in Alaska.

In addition to the fisheries hearing, Begich visited the Kodiak Island Brewery to take a tour hosted by brewmaster Ben Millstein. Earlier this month, Millstein traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak at a Begich-hosted hearing on the importance of small breweries to the national economy.

Begich also visited Mill Bay Coffee, a seafood cooking exhibition hosted by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, and Gibson Cove for a tour of Island Trails Network’s marine debris collection program.

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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