Gov. Mike Dunleavy has named 11 people to a new task force set to study fish bycatch happening in Alaska waters.
In November, Dunleavy issued an administrative order to establish the Alaska Bycatch Review Task Force, with the aim of “exploring the issue of bycatch and providing recommendations to policymakers with the goal of improving the health and sustainability of Alaska’s fisheries.”
Bycatch is the incidental harvest of fish like salmon and halibut by commercial operators that cannot be processed or sold. The practice remains a target of criticism by subsistence and personal-use fishermen, particularly at a time when stocks of a number of species are collapsing around Alaska.
In December, a bipartisan group of lawmakers took up the issue in the House Fisheries Committee.
According to the governor’s office, the group will be focused on four key topics: The impact of bycatch on fisheries, recommending policies specific to “high-value Alaska fishery resources,” making sure state agencies are taking advantage of funds for understanding bycatch, and highlighting the best scientific data for the public and policymakers.
“Bycatch has remained a contentious issue of concern of all Alaskans,” Dunleavy said. “The 11 Alaskans who stepped forward to serve on the Alaska Bycatch Review Task Force represent key stakeholder groups and are recognized for not only their knowledge of fisheries, but their commitment to sustaining the resource for generations of Alaskans to come.”
Dunleavy appointed 11 members, all of whom have voting power. Under the administrative order, the commissioners of the Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Commerce, currently held by Doug Vincent-Lang and Julie Anderson, are also on the body. The remaining two members, who will not have voting power, will be selected by state legislators.
The members are:
• John Jensen (chair), of Petersburg, who serves on the Board of Fisheries, and has a background in commercial fishing.
• Tommy Sheridan (vice-chair) of Cordova, a fisheries consultant who will hold the task force’s public seat.
• Brian Gabriel, the current mayor of Kenai.
• Linda Kozak, of Kodiak, who fills the seat reserved for halibut fishers.
• Raymond May, who runs a commercial salmon fishing boat out of Kodiak and is a council member for the Native Village of Port Lions.
• Erik Velsko, who holds a seat reserved for crab fishermen and has commercially fished a number of different stocks around the state.
• Mike Flores, who runs a sportfishing business out of Ninilchik.
• Stephanie Madsen, of Juneau, head of the At-Sea Processors Association.
• Ragnar Alstrom, head of the Yukon Delta Development Association, who occupies the Community Development Quota seat.
• Kevin Delany, a former director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s sportfish division and is listed as a consultant for the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.
• Duncan Fields of Kodiak, who owns a consulting firm and fills a spot on the task force reserved for Alaska Natives.