It took freedom-of-information requests, weeks of queries to administrators and more than three months past a legal deadline for Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy to finally release his choice for a Board of Fisheries seat.
Dunleavy appointed Indy Walton of Soldotna to fill the vacant seat on the seven-member board that directs management of subsistence, personal use, sport and commercial fisheries in state waters out to three miles. The vacancy came 115 days after the Alaska Legislature on May 11 rejected his choice of Abe Williams, a regional affairs director for the proposed Pebble mine.
Alaska law states that the governor must submit a new name to the Legislature within 30 days for confirmation, but Dunleavy moves to his own legal drummer and 15 candidates remained under wraps from the public although all applied for the Board of Fisheries seat in June.
In a statement the governor said Walton has 37 years of commercial salmon fishing experience at Kodiak and Bristol Bay. He is a partner at Last Cast Lodge in Igiugik and has worked as a financial adviser with Edward Jones Investments for 19 years.
Court records show that Walton was charged with two closed-waters fishing violations, in 2005 and 2012, although the fines paid weren’t immediately available, reported KSTK in Wrangell. Two Bristol Bay boats, Sniper and Turbo, are registered in his name.
Frances Leach, outgoing director of United Fishermen of Alaska, said in a statement the UFA “is excited” to work with Walton, who is “a strong anti-Pebble Mine voice and is spoken of highly by his fellow Bristol Bay fishermen.”
But state Rep. Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham) said Walton’s appointment could be controversial when he’s up for legislative confirmation next year due to his support for scrapping the law that limits Bristol Bay to 32-foot vessels.
“If that’s the case, he’s going to encounter a lot of resistance from year-round residents of the Bristol Bay region. We’ve fought long and hard to keep the 32-foot limit in place. Because otherwise, local fishermen, particularly our village fishermen, would be disenfranchised and wouldn’t be able to compete,” Edgmon told KSTK.
Walton’s first Fish Board meeting will be at its Oct. 20-21 work session in Anchorage as it prepares to address fishery issues at Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska.
Other applicants for the Fish Board seat include Ernie Weiss of Anchorage, Natural Resources Director at Aleutians East Borough and member of the Anchorage Fish & Game Advisory Committee; Tom Carpenter of Cordova, co-chair of the Copper River/Prince William Sound Advisory Committee, a PWS Aquaculture Board member and the 2020 Alaska Department of Fish and Game Excellence in Service Award; (Leo) Steve Brown, a longtime former biologist at ADFG, board president of Concerned Area M Fishermen and a board member of UFA and the North Pacific Fisheries Association; John Cox of Anchor Point, a retired Navy veteran and past president of the Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce who owns Smokin,’ a fine cigar and loose tobacco store; Patricia Edel of King Salmon, a middle school science teacher at the Bristol Bay Borough School District and owner of Blue Fly B&B and Guide Service; Brad Angasan of Anchorage, president of the Alaska Peninsula Corp. and a longtime Bristol Bay fisherman; Rhonda Pitka of Beaver, First Chief at Beaver Village Council and Chairwoman of the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments.
Also, Hope Roberts of Valdez, Intertribal Liaison at Chugach Regional Resources Commission and co-owner of Surreel Saltwaters; Anthony Lekanof of St. George and Anchorage, executive director at Aleut Corp.; Fritz Johnson of Dillingham, a former two-term BOF member and 40+ year Bristol Bay fisherman; Hallie Bissett of Anchorage, executive director of the Alaska Native Village Corporation Association; John Gimarc of Anchorage, a retired Air Force veteran who worked as a systems analyst for the Anchorage Municipality and owner of Quilt Zone, a retail shop; Robert Ruffner of Soldotna, owner of Alaska Resource Solutions and a former vice-chair of the Fish Board from 2016-2019; and Timothy Anelon, an Iliamna Village Council director and Environmental Protection Agency coordinator.
Seafood contest calls for entries - The Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition is back and the call is out for entries. The contest has showcased new products since 1994 but was canceled last year due to the COVID pandemic.
“It encourages value added seafood production and promotes high quality Alaska products that are coming into the marketplace. And we help promote those across the country and the world. There isn’t anything else like this for Alaska seafood,” said Julie Decker, executive director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, which hosts the event.
An expert panel will judge the market-ready products in Seattle on Nov. 17 in several categories, including a few new ones.
“This year we’ll have our traditional categories which are retail, food service, and Beyond the Plate, which is basically non-edible products made with byproducts or fish wastes, or things of that nature. The new categories are salmon and whitefish. You can also enter in more than one category if it fits the definitions,” Decker explained, adding that a Bristol Bay Choice for a sockeye salmon entry also has been added to the lineup.
First-place winners and the Seattle’s People Choice will be announced at an open house to kick off Pacific Marine Expo set for Nov. 18-20.
The grand prize and second- and third-place winners will be kept under wraps until a February bash in Juneau where another People’s Choice award will be announced.
All top winners get booth space and photo shoots at Seafood Expo North America in Boston in March, where their products also will compete nationally.
The Alaska seafood competition levels the playing field between major seafood producers and the small mom-and-pops. Bullwhip Hot Sauce by Barnacle Foods of Juneau, for example, was the most recent triple winner in the retail category, the Juneau People’s Choice and the overall Grand Prize.
Deadline to enter products is Oct. 4. Apply and learn more at afdf.org/.
The AOOS is one of 11 national federally funded systems that partners with other agencies and groups to fill data gaps on ocean observations to enhance decision-making.
“AOOS runs the largest collection of ocean and coastal data in the state,” said Molly McCammon, AOOS senior adviser. “A lot of it is real time data and a lot is historical biological data, and then we also run a lot of models that are used primarily for forecasting for things like wind, waves, ocean circulation, precipitation, sea ice conditions, things of that nature.”
The AOOS website contains numerous portals that provide a “one stop shop” for specific information.
“You might be a recreational boater or a commercial fisherman who wants to go out that day, and you want to know what the sea state conditions are right now and what they might be,” she added. “You can download wind and wave conditions from weather stations or wave buoys. You might also want to know about local bathymetry or the charting from nav charts. You can stack those layers and see them all together rather than having to look at several sites. We try to collect all of these different data points and put them together into something that’s easy to use.”
Another portal provides Alaska updates on ocean acidification, algal blooms, warming blobs, water levels and much more.
A short survey is underway to get feedback on the value of the AOOS information.
“How often do you use these things and how much value do you put on them? We’re trying to quantify that,” McCammon said. “We really try to focus on stakeholder needs. We’re not a research program, per se. Although we do fund a lot of research, it’s more on how stakeholders use the marine environment. What information do they need? How do they want to see it? We try to have those priorities direct how we focus our funding efforts. So, if people want to get tell us what they’d like to see and if they would like an asset in their region and can tell us why, please let us know.”