Conflict sparks over Walker’s fish board appointment

Sportfishing groups are raising a hue and cry about Gov. Bill Walker’s proposed appointee to the Board of Fisheries.

Current board member Al Cain of Anchorage, who has served on the board since 2016, does not plan to seek reappointment. Walker nominated Duncan Fields, a Kodiak commercial salmon fisherman and former member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, to replace him, on Friday.

Almost immediately, a broad coalition of sportfishing interest groups sent a letter to the Legislature, objecting because of Fields’ background in commercial fishing. A March 19 letter to the Legislature signed by groups including the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, the Alaska Charter Association and the Alaska Outdoor Council states that Fields’ appointment would unbalance the sportfishing and commercial fishing representation and leave Anchorage without a representative.

“Members of the Board are chosen by the Governor and confirmed by the Legislature based on good judgment, interest in public affairs, knowledge and ability,” the letter states. “A well-balanced Board also represents a diversity of interest and points of view. Although not required by statute, geographic representation has been a hallmark of this process.”

The group called for legislators to reject Fields’ nomination.

The Board of Fisheries does not have designated seats, and the composition has fluctuated over time. Many of the members participate in multiple types of fisheries as well. Currently, two members of the board hold Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission permits — chairman John Jensen and member Fritz Johnson — while one, board member Reed Morisky, is an active fishing guide. Members Israel Payton, Robert Ruffner and Cain have all said they participate in sport fishing but do not guide, and member Orville Huntington comes from a subsistence background from Huslia, a community on the Koyukuk River in the Interior.

To read the rest of this story by the Peninsula Clarion, click here.

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