People across the state, including House Speaker Mike Chenault, are questioning the Board of Fisheries’ unanimous vote to not even interview one of the apparently qualified candidates, Roland Maw, for Alaska Department of Fish and Game commissioner, and the lack of public process in reaching that vote.
Chenault sent a strongly worded letter to Gov. Bill Walker asking him to look into it and to consider replacing the board.
“Maw is well-qualified, has worked for a diverse group of fish and game users, and has literally written books on salmon and bear,” Chenault wrote.
Maw is the only candidate with any background on the game side of Fish and Game, including a doctorate in forestry and wildland management. All seven members of the Board of Game voted to interview him.
Chenault praised them for that.
“The Board of Game vetted and discussed Dr. Maw and acted to forward his name for consideration. They showed class and respect to the public.”
Chenault and others more than hint at collusion.
“(BOF Chair) Karl Johnstone’s comments to the Alaska Dispatch News’ reporter covering the meeting, where he refused to answer why he voted against Dr. Maw, contribute to the perception that the decisions were made behind closed doors and prior to the public portion of the meeting,” he wrote. “The Board of Fisheries’ action was unconscionable and appeared as if it were a set-up; the nominating process left a good man in an embarrassing situation and angered me and many other Peninsula residents.”
Online comment boards that have carried the story also point to the fact that out of the almost 50 letters of support for both Maw and Acting Commissioner Sam Cotten, roughly half for each, not a single one came from groups such as the Kenai River Sportfishing Association and the Mat-Su Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission, which have been at odds with Maw on many issues, adding to the perception that they knew in advance they did not need to worry about him advancing in the process.
Chenault suggested a solution.
“The process undertaken by the Board of Fish is unacceptable; maybe you should consider replacing the Board with members who show a respect for the public and would support an open process and public dialogue.”
The governor has the option of asking the joint boards to send him more names for consideration, and whichever name he chooses needs to be confirmed by the Legislature.
The Copper River sockeye fishery in 2015 may be the fifth best in the past 20 years if the ADF&G forecast comes to fruition, up 16 percent from last season.
The projected sockeye catch is 2.5 million, up from nearly 2.1 million last year. The 2014 forecast, however, was for only 1.6 million sockeye.
The chinook harvest, however, is expected to drop considerably, to 6,000, down from 9,600 last season. That harvest was less than half of the preseason projection of 22,000 chinook.
Next season being an odd year, pink salmon harvests in Prince William Sound are expected to be 15 million fish, down considerably from the 44 million caught in 2014.
Icicle Seafoods is for sale, and Copper River Seafoods is planning to make a bid, according to Undercurrent News.
Oregon-based Pacific Seafoods Group also is seen as a front-runner.
Copper River’s main shareholder, Scott Blake, told Undercurrent the company is interested in buying some — if not all — of the Icicle assets, defying industry speculation that Icicle would be hard-pressed to find a party with any interest in purchasing the company in full, aside from Pacific Seafoods.
“Copper River Seafoods is looking to expand its operations in Alaska, and because Icicle is a major asset holder in Alaska, we would be interested in some of those, if not all of them,” Blake, also the CEO and president, said.
Sources watching the deal closely told Undercurrent the large companies with similar assets to Icicle as other possible interested parties are Pacific Seafood; Trident Seafoods; Silver Bay Seafoods, now 12.5 percent owned by Dongwon Industries and Starkist; and at least four Japanese companies.
A source at one of the major possible acquirers said Icicle’s asking price has been the major hurdle when the company has attempted sale in the past.
It was much higher than companies wanted to pay given the liabilities that come with its aging plants, and the company may have valued its hard-to-define access to resource at higher than buyers did. The sale is expected by the end of the year.
In their continued fight against genetically engineered (GE) fish, this week Congressmen Don Young, R-Alaska, Mike Thompson, D-Calif., Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Jared Huffman, D-Calif., introduced two pieces of legislation intended to prevent genetically engineered fish from making their way onto the nation’s dinner plates and spreading into the nation’s oceans.
The first bill, H.R. 394, would effectively ban all GE fish in the United States by prohibiting the shipment, sale, transportation, purchase, procession or release into the wild of GE salmon or other GE finfish unless the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service completes a full environmental impact statement and concludes that it will result in no such impact to the environment.
The second bill, H.R. 393, would improve efforts to inform the American consumer by requiring the labeling of all GE fish sold for consumption by the Food and Drug Administration.
“The FDA is reviewing GE salmon as if it were a new animal drug, but this type of review process is obviously dead wrong for a product destined for our dinner plates,” Congressman Young said. “Furthermore, it fails to consider the possible threat GE fish pose to natural salmon fisheries in this nation.”
The legislation is aimed at AquaBounty, a company that has been trying since 1996 to get approval to market eggs made by splicing genetic material from chinook and Atlantic salmon and an ocean pout that would grow to market size in half the time of unaltered farmed Atlantic salmon.
Cristy Fry can be reached at email@example.com.