Board of Fisheries appointment divides some anglers

Published: Mar. 15, 2018 at 10:08 PM AKDT
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A new nominee for the state board of fisheries is creating a wake with some anglers.Governor Walker made a series of recommendations for positions on various boards and commissions last week.

Among those, Kodiak commercial fisherman and attorney Duncan Fields.

If approved by lawmakers, Fields would replace a retiring representative from Anchorage. Something the Kenai River Sportfishing Association's executive director, Ricky Gease says could significantly impact future board decisions.

"Anchorage for the last 30 years has always had a seat on the board of fisheries and actually, Anchorage anglers for sport and personal use dipnetters are the largest group of people in any fishery in the state... to have them not having representation on the board of fisheries is just unjust," Gease said.

But some disagree.

"A good board member is someone who listens to all sides and does not already have their mind made up on how they're going to vote on proposals prior to the meeting and I think that's very important," Frances Leach, executive director with United Fishermen of Alaska said.

The board members are appointed for three year terms by the governor.

Gease said traditionally the group, which works to conserve and develop fishery resources is made up of three commercial fishermen, three sport and personal use anglers and one subsistence position.

Gease said he's concerned Fields could throw the balance off the board.

"As Alaskans we deserve the access and opportunity to put fish and food on our tables and that's what's being threatened with this issue and appointment to the board."

Leach said the board has a history of pulling members for its 7-seats from across the state with backgrounds in all divisions of the industry.

"There are no designated seats per region and luckily the majority of the meetings are held in Anchorage which gives the public an advantage in Anchorage to come and participate in those meetings and also talk to board members so that might be argued as an already unfair advantage," she said.