Story last updated at 2:53 p.m. Thursday, October 10, 2002

Former Fish Board chair appointed to NPFMC
Sepp Jannotta

DAN COFFEY IS THE PICK favored by Gov. Tony Knowles for appointment to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The former Fish Board chairman was chosen this week as the top candidate to replace Bob Penney of Anchorage, who announced his resignation from the council last month. "Dan Coffey distinguished himself during two terms on the state Board of Fisheries, including serving as its chair," Knowles said in a press release. "He is knowledgeable on fishery issues, committed to protecting Alaska interests in fisheries, and will make an excellent addition to Alaska's team on the North Pacific Council." Like Penney, Coffey has been a vortex of controversy among commercial fishing interests in Alaska. Pointing out that he is not a stakeholder in any fishery, Coffey pitched himself as an independent voice for the fisheries resources, habitat and the interests of coastal communities and fishing families, according to the governor's press release. Coffey is a practicing attorney living in Anchorage, where he specializes in real estate and commercial law. Knowles appointed Coffey to the Board of Fisheries in 1996, and he served two terms, including one as chair. In its announcement of his recommendation for appointment to the North Pacific council, the Knowles administration praised Coffey's work for the state's Fish Board, saying he helped to develop the committee process, which has helped handle the board's tremendous workload. The board also adopted the Sustainable Fisheries Policy and the Escapement Goal Policy during Coffey's tenure. The administration also gave Coffey a lot of credit for the state- water cod fishery for small boat fishermen. He was also a contributor to the final draft of the Chignik Cooperative Fishery Plan. He supported the Community Development Quota fisheries as essential to giving local communities access to fisheries resources in their local areas. Coffey fished commercially for halibut and crab in Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound in the early 1970s and was part owner of a halibut and bottomfish boat during the late 1980s. As required by federal law, the governor will submit two alternative choices -- Bill Foster of Sitka and Ben Ellis of Soldotna -- for consideration by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, though according to Knowles' spokesman Bob King, the governors' preferred picks are routinely appointed.

THE BERING SEA GROUNDFISH fleet may be the next in line to ask for a move to a cooperative style of fishery rather than the traditional race against the regulatory clock. A number of Seattle-based vessel owners told the Seattle Times that they were set to present to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council a plan for installing a cooperative fishery that would increase safety and reduce the discards in harvest that are among the nation's most wasteful. "The cooperative will give this fleet a chance to do something good," John Gauvin of the industry group Groundfish Forum told The Associated Press. "This fleet always seems to get a black eye, and this co-op will help clean things up." Conservation groups have supported the co-op concept, though many groups are still looking for more protections for sea-bottom habitats. The move toward a safer fishery comes after the fleet suffered its worst tragedy in decades when the 93-foot Arctic Rose sank last year with 15 men aboard. The Bering Sea groundfish fleet employs about 2,000 workers.

THE OCEAN CONSERVANCY, meanwhile, called on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to institute a moratorium on bottom trawling in Aleutian waters in order to protect recently discovered deep-water corals, sponges and depleted rockfish species. In a statement released this week, the group said that destructive bottom trawls could "destroy these ancient and fragile coral forests and threaten the depleted rockfish species that feed there. The Ocean Conservancy contends that an interim moratorium is necessary to prevent further damage, while allowing resource managers to map the sea floor ecosystem and to develop more ecologically friendly fishing strategies. The loss of the coral habitat could have a negative impact on rockfish and the future success of the fishing industry, the group said. "Habitat damage may be the nail in the coffin for depleted rockfish," said Whit Sheard, fish conservation program manager for Ocean Conservancy in Alaska. The organization also requested that the North Pacific council reduce catch quotas in the region in order to end what it called "years of rampant overfishing" and to avoid the closures that have come down on other west coast fisheries.

GOV. TONY KNOWLES addressed a Kodiak Chamber of Commerce crowd and called for more federal assistance for Alaska's ailing fishermen, according to a Kodiak Daily Mirror report. Citing the $180 billion farm subsidy recently passed by Congress as an example of the kind of help the government can give. Knowles said that if the economic situation in Kodiak were to happen anywhere else in the nation "we would see national legislation addressing the economic disaster."

PINK SALMON will be on the menu for the federal food assistance program, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will purchase another 75,000 cases of pink salmon, worth some $1.3 million, from Alaska fish processors. In a recent press release, Gov. Knowles said he was pleased that the federal government was keeping Alaska salmon in the program. "Alaska fishermen landed over 84 million pink salmon this season, but fishermen, processors and coastal communities are all struggling because of low prices," Knowles said. "These continued government purchases of Alaska salmon help strengthen prices paid to fishermen and provide schools, food banks and charitable institutions that participate in the federal food assistance program with a healthy and tasty source of protein." Federal purchases of Alaska salmon have totaled more than $71 million in the past seven years. More information on the purchasing program is available at

THE INTERNATIONAL PACIFIC HALIBUT Commission is inviting public and industry comment on regulatory or administrative issues for inclusion at the 2003 IPHC annual meeting. Blank comment submission forms are available through the IPHC office, 206-634-1838, or on the Web at Submission deadline is Oct. 31.

THE WAREHOUSE FIRE neighboring a seafood plant in Akutan burned the building to the ground, but the remaining building complex of Trident Seafoods, which processes pollock, cod and crab, was saved, The Dutch Harbor Fisherman reported. The fire started on the morning of Sept. 21 in the village 40 miles east of Unalaska, and quickly spread through the 25,000-foot storage building. Stacks of waxed cardboard and petroleum-based lubrication oil kept the blaze flaming, and firefighters struggled to contain it for more than 24 hours. The fire became even more interesting when a cache of sorbitol, a sugar-like product used for some fish processing, combined with water and heated in the fire. The reaction created a river of molasses-like substance around the building. There is no official estimate on the value of the damaged property, but losses will be in the millions, said Joe Plesha, a spokesman for Trident Seafoods. The warehouse will be rebuilt, he said.