Another of Governor Mike Dunleavy’s appointments has raised eyebrows among fishery stakeholders.

Melvin Smith, an Anchorage real estate executive, will take a lead at the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, which regulates fishing permits and vessel licenses in Alaska’s fisheries. The job comes with a six figure salary.

Smith’s appointment was not announced nor advertised. Coast Alaska reports that Smith’s name surfaced when it was sent to the state Senate for consideration by lawmakers. Dunleavy “believes he’s the best candidate,” spokesman Jeff Turner told Coast Alaska.

Seafood Auction

Fisherman and former lobbyist Bob Thorstensen Junior told Coast Alaska it’s a customary practice for someone close or loyal to the governor to be tapped for commissioner jobs.

“Whoever gets that job is usually a pretty good friend of the governor’s people because it’s a choice job.”

The Commission’s next big task is to determine the right number of permits in various limited entry fisheries, a number originally based on historical participation, which may not be the optimum number for a fishery or region.

Also last week — a judge ruled that Governor Dunleavy did not have the power to extend board and commission appointments late last year after the Legislature was unable to meet to confirm them due to the Covid pandemic.

That includes his controversial Board of Fish appointments of Pebble Mine regional affairs director Abe Williams of Anchorage and unknown sport fish enthusiast McKenzie Mitchell of Fairbanks who has no commercial fisheries experience. Only one of seven board members will represent a coastal region if the governor has his way.

The Alaska legislature sued Dunleavy over his allowing them and dozens of appointees to continue serving without confirmation as required by law.  The governor reappointed them all when the new Legislature reconvened last month.

The judge’s decision doesn’t affect whether they can serve until they are confirmed. That’s a big concern for House Speaker Louise Stutes of Kodiak is –

“And that’s a that’s a concern because as we all know, the Board of fish is a very serious board to be a member of. They make some significant decisions that affect a lot of people’s livelihoods. And to have these appointees have the ability to have a bona fide vote before they are confirmed by the legislature is problematic. I think that they should be confirmed prior to being allowed to sit as a full board member.”