Alaska Governor Bill Walker has made a lot of fishing-related news lately. Earlier this week, Walker requested that the state’s Pacific cod fishery be declared a federal disaster. And his appointment of commercial fisherman Duncan Fields to the Alaska Board of Fisheries will likely stir up some ill will among the state’s sportfishing sector for a perceived a lack of voices among sport and recreational anglers.
There is controversy over Governor Bill Walker’s appointment of a new member of the Alaska Board of Fisheries. The Governor has chosen commercial fisherman Duncan Fields to fill the spot for a three-year term.
Ricky Gease, executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, hopes lawmakers vote no.
“This nomination by the Governor stacks the board with a clear majority voice for commercial fishing interests,” Gease said on Thursday.
Gease says the seven-member board has traditionally been made up of three spots for commercial fishing, three for sport and personal use and one seat for subsistence.
“So if you have a clear stacked board of just commercial fishing interests, then the tendency is for them to vote in their own interest. And we’re very fearful of that. So anybody across the state, in non-commercial fishery, should be worried about this appointment,” he said.
Fields says that he’s one of seven people who will assess issues and make “reasoned decisions relative to the issue at hand.”
“I am a commercial fisherman but my professional representation has been much broader than that as well. I worked with rural communities in the Gulf of Alaska and I frequently advocated for the subsistence fisherman, sport fisherman and sport charter operators in those communities, as well as a commercial fisherman, ” he added.
Others are skeptical of the appointment. Fields has also run for a seat in the Alaska House of Representatives in the past and was reportedly considering another run in the next election.
If the nomination of Duncan Fields is confirmed by the Legislature, there will be no Board of Fisheries representative from Anchorage.
But the appointment of Fields has another purpose, besides being an unwelcome assault against dip-netters and anglers of Alaska, particularly Southcentral. The appointment would keep Fields from running against Rep. Louise Stutes, a Kodiak Republican who has fallen out of favor with Alaska Republicans and who joined the Democratic-run House majority. ..
…The sports fishing community is up in arms. There was no public announcement that the governor is changing the board balance from being weighted evenly between sports and commercial, with one seat for subsistence to what would be a clearly commercial fisheries board, with four seats.
“This appointment will unbalance the Board and we strongly oppose the nomination,” said Kenai River Sportfishing Association Executive Director Ricky Gease. “Past governors have for years kept the Board balanced in regional representation and between commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence user groups. By stacking the Board with a majority voice of commercial fishing interests – and with no one from Anchorage – the governor is threatening Alaskans’ opportunity to harvest fish.”
When Walker was elected, Karl Johnstone was the chair of the Board of Fisheries, representing the sports fishing seat for Anchorage. The governor said he would not reappoint him, so Johnstone left on his own terms, and Walker appointed Roland Maw.