Controversial picks to the state Board of Fisheries (BOF)were made in April by Governor Dunleavy and they will finally get a hearing in early fall.

Normally, the Alaska legislature would put appointees through a vigorous vetting process with public input – but the Covid virus sent them home early from the last session.

Now, Representative Louise Stutes of Kodiak has called a hearing for September 3 in Anchorage..

“ I tried to push it out as far as I thought I could safely push it out. I know there’s a lot of guys fishing and I wanted to give everyone an opportunity but I just didn’t dare push it out any further than Thursday, September 3. It will be at 10am in the Anchorage Legislative Information Office.”  

Stutes also is chair of the House Fisheries Committee.

“And I think it is appropriate to vet these appointees prior to the BOF meetings. I find it a little bit disturbing and I question how appointees can go to a  meeting and be a viable, countable vote when they have not been confirmed by the legislature, and that’s the situation as it is now.”

Controversy has swirled by Dunleavy’s selection of Abe Williams of Anchorage, director of regional affairs for the Pebble Mine. Current board member Märit Carlson-Van Dort also was a former Pebble director.

The governor also named McKenzie Mitchell, an unknown self-claimed fishing and hunting guide from Fairbanks. A public records request has been sent asking for a resume and other documentation on Mitchell’s experience and qualifications.

John Jensen of Petersburg also is up for reappointment. Should this slate be passed, Stutes says Jensen will be the only Fish Board rep from a coastal community.

“Between all of these appointments there are 7 BOF members and John Jensen will be the only coastal representation. Now, I understand that interior fisheries are important, but so are coastal fisheries, for goodness sakes.    It’s just wrong. There should be a fair distribution of the resource representation. And there just isn’t.”

If the legislature gets called back to Juneau to deal with budget and Covid relief money issues, Stutes says she will call a hearing there.

“If by chance we get called back to Juneau for a special session and it interferes with the September. 3 date, I will have the fisheries meeting out of Juneau.   Bottom line is there will be a fisheries hearing prior to the first BOF meeting in October. I just think it’s critical to give people an opportunity to weigh in.”

Still, the unvetted appointees will be at the table when the Board starts its meeting cycle in October.

“They are just like a regular board member and that to me is problematic. I believe they should be confirmed by the legislature.”

The fish board oversees management of Alaska’s subsistence, commercial, sport and personal use fisheries.

Public comments on the nominees can be emailed starting now to Stutes’ legislative office.

“They can start today.”