Reality TV star, others warn Senate of shutdown’s impact

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   Alaska crab fisherman and reality TV star Keith Colburn would normally be out on the water in the Bering Sea this time of year, but on Friday he found himself testifying in the U.S. Senate, pleading for the government to get back to work on the regulations necessary to open the king crab season on Oct. 15.

   “This is the first time in 28 years that I have not been in the Bering Sea in the month of October,” the captain of the F/V Wizard and star of the Discovery Channel’s show “The Deadliest Catch,” told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “I need to go fishing.”

   Colburn was the brawniest member of a panel of experts warning senators of the impact of the government shutdown, and before that,  the sequester, on accident investigation, scientific research, and aeronautical investments.

   Because of furloughs, the National Transportation Safety Board has not investigated 14 accidents during the shutdown, including a bus crash in Tennessee that killed eight people, a four-fatality plane crash in Arizona and the death of a worker on Washington’s Metro, said NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman.

  The NTSB has also put off 1,000 investigations, “essentially delaying safety to the American public,” she said.

   The entire Antarctic field research season is imperiled, new clinical trials have been postponed at the National Institutes of Health, no government scientists are reading seismographs, no one is monitoring algae blooms in the Great Lakes, and three important radio telescopes are off the air, said Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

“This shutdown has come as a very serious blow to an already beleaguered American scientific enterprise,” Leshner said. “The cumulative effects of these trends, now exacerbated by the shutdown, are threatening America’s very standing in the global scientific community.”

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."
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Joe Davidson · October 11, 2013