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Bristol Bay fisherman may return to state board

February 10th, 2017 | Molly Dischner, The Bristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor Fisherman Print this article   Email this article  

A Dillingham fisherman is seeking another term on the state Board of Fisheries.

The seven-member board makes policy and allocative decisions for fisheries throughout Alaska. Most fisheries are considered on a triennial rotation, and Bristol Bay was last up for discussion in 2015.

Gov. Bill Walker's Jan. 30 list of board appointments included three familiar faces for the fish board: Dillingham's Fritz Johnson, John Jensen of Petersburg and Reed Morisky of Fairbanks. All three must still be confirmed by the state Legislature, and in recent years, that confirmation process has been difficult for some nominees. In 2013, King Salmon commercial fisherman Vince Webster did not get enough votes to serve another term on the board, despite being re-appointed by then-Gov. Sean Parnell.

Jensen and Morisky both currently serve on the board. Jensen, a commercial fisherman, has served continuously since January 2003. Morisky, a sport fisherman and guide, has served since February 2013.

Johnson was first appointed after Webster's confirmation failed, continuing a long-standing tradition of having a Bristol Bay fisherman on the board. He served from August 2013 to June 2016, but was not re-appointed last spring; instead, the governor opted for a Soldotna scientist, who did not fit the usual balance of three commercial, three sport, and one subsistence representative, or the usual regional balance.

This time around, the governor felt he was the best choice for the an opening on the board, a spokeswoman wrote in an email.

Johnson also serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, and is a drift permit holder in Bristol Bay. He worked previously at Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.

Johnson was appointed to the seat currently held by Sue Jeffrey, a set-netter from Kodiak. If confirmed, he would serve from July 2017 through June 2020, and he and Jensen would be the only commercial representatives on the seven-member board.

Johnson said he had never withdrawn his application when he sought to be re-appointed previously, and that Jeffrey's departure from the board left a whole in commercial fishing representation that he said he was happy to fill.

"I do want to stress that having a commercial fisherman in any one of those positions doesn't mean they represent only commercial fishermen," Johnson said, noting that the board is tasked with making decisions for all stakeholders, with the best interest of the resource in mind as well.

If confirmed, those three will serve alongside Orville Huntington, of Huslia, Israel Payton, of Wasilla, Alan Cain, of Anchorage, and Soldotna's Robert Ruffner.

Ruffner is the scientist who replaced Johnson last summer. Huntington is considered a subsistence representative, and Payton and Cain are considered sport representatives.

But the make-up of the board could change in future.

A bill up for discussion by the state Legislature this session would add two more members. House Bill 88 was introduced by Rep. Louise Stutes, a Kodiak republican.

In a sponsor statement, Stutes wrote that a larger board could mean representatives from more regions of the state.

That change is first being discussed in the House Fisheries committee, and then is expected to go to the House Finance committee for consideration.

States also introduced a bill addressing conflicts of interests for board members, which was also referred to the House fish committee.


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