Gov. Mike Dunleavy       Credit: Matt Buxton 

 

Only one member of the state Board of Fisheries will hail from the coast if Governor Dunleavy has his way.

On April 1, Dunleavy named Abe Williams, an Anchorage-based Bristol Bay fisherman and longtime director of regional affairs for the Pebble Mine, and McKenzie Mitchell, a self-claimed hunting and fishing guide from Fairbanks, to the Board.

No information is available for Mitchell. But the two could be seated with no review or input from the legislature or public.

“Under a normal process it goes through a vigorous vetting process – the governor will forward names and the legislature will take public testimony and consider the appointment. Because of the COVID situation, the legislature has closed up shop and we’re kind of skipping that step.”

Katherine Carscallen is director of Fishermen for Bristol Bay. She says Williams and Mitchell could participate in this fall’s Fish Board meetings with no formal confirmation.

“And by the time we get around to actually vetting this appointment, you’ll have given someone a pulpit as a BOF member. It seems really inappropriate in my mind.”

Lawmakers left Juneau early due to virus constraints. A house bill temporarily extends the time for them to meet and confirm the Board appointments prior to next January’s session.

Representative Louise Stutes of Kodiak is determined to make that happen.

 “There’s hope and intent on behalf of the legislature to have the committee hearings and allow the public to weigh in. it’s imperative and especially when you look at the nominees on the BOF, the public input is critical.”

No timeline has been set but Stutes says she’ll convene a virtual meeting if necessary. She has been openly critical of what she perceives as an anti-commercial bias on the Fish Board led by the ADF&G commissioner.

“There needs to be a fair process and it appears to me clearly the BOF is getting stacked.”

Stutes also is concerned about Alaska policy positions being stacked by Pebble advocates.

“It’s concerning to me to have our commissioner of DNR be an ex-Pebble guy and now we’ve got a BOF nominee that’s a Pebble guy? I mean, come on.”

Should Williams and Mitchell hold board seats, only John Jensen of Petersburg will hail from a coastal community. All others come from Anchorage, Fairbanks, Wasilla, Eagle River and Willow. Carscallen hopes Alaskans will demand a fair process. Katharine Carscallen –

“I guess my plea to anyone who’s tracking this is to give their rep a call and ask for a normal public process. I think that’s what we deserve.”

The seven member Fish Board directs management policy for Alaska’s commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence fisheries. Stutes says she is determined to have fair representation.

“We’re aware of it. Trust me, we’re working on it.” 

Thanks to the audio assist from National Fisherman.

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