Alaska Governor Cements Council Majority with Peterson and Laukitis Recommendations for NPFMC Seats

SEAFOODNEWS.COM By Peggy Parker – March 10, 2016

Governor Walker announced his nominees for two seats on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council yesterday, putting Theresa Peterson of Kodiak and Buck Laukitis of Homer at the top of his list as “preferred nominees” with two alternates for each.

If the Secretary of Commerce approves his nominees, Peterson and Laukitis will replace Duncan Fields and David Long, whose terms end this summer.

Peterson has been a commercial and subsistence fisherman for over thirty years. She currently serves as an Advisory Panel Member of the Council. She is also a member of the Alaska Jig Associaiton, the Community Fish Network, and is the outreach Coordinator for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.

Michael “Buck” Laukitis is a commercial fisherman and the owner of Magic Fish Company and Compass Rose Properties. He helped to develop the Alaska Maritime Workforce Developmet Plan in 2014. Laukitis has a USCG 100-ton Masters License, and is a longstanding member of the Board of Trustees for the Homer Foundation, whose mission is to promote philanthropic and charitable activities.

Apointments to the council are always the focus of attention from the fishing industry, but with a Gulf of Alaska rationalization plan on the Council agenda, who will represent Alaskan interests is of critical importance.

The Council is considering two alternative plans, one backed by most of the Gulf trawl fleets and another introduced and backed by the Alaska members on the Council. Peterson and Laukitis are considered supporters of the latter plan, which is still in development.

Julie Bonney of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank in Kodiak is in the other camp. She and others worked for two years to craft a plan that the trawl industry supported. The new recommendations from the Governor concern her.

“I am extremely concerned that there is no one on the Alaska side of the eleven voting members that understand trawl fisheries,” she said. “How they function, tools needed to meet the bycatch objectives – the contributions these harvests make to processors and communities like Kodiak, Sand Point and King Cove.

“The new Alaska voting six are aligned with small boat, fixed gear interests that don’t understand the overall seafood economy that include the benefit of trawling and how all the different sectors contribute to the health of the overall industry and the benefits to Alaska’s economy,” Bonney said.

Jeff Stephan, director of the United Fishermen’s Marketing Association, also in Kodiak, disagrees.

“I have observed, known and worked with both Theresa and Buck for many years with respect to a broad array of complex and difficult fisheries management issues,” Stephan said. “I have confidence in their dedication, fairness and motives, and in their knowledge and understanding of the serious task that they will face as Council members. Theresa Peterson and Buck Laukitis are the right people, at the right time to engage in the multi-dimensional challenges that face fisheries management in the North Pacific.”

Bob Alverson, executive director of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association, has a different take. “Our interest isn’t in how the allocation of fish will go, it’s in the accountability of bycatch and how we can that can be verified better.

“From the standpoint of coming up with a final option for what the new Gulf rationalization will look like, it’s too early to say no or yes to this. We’re in a ten-month negotiating process and everyone on the Council needs to come up with something that works.

“Both [Peterson and Laukitis] fully understand the importance of juvenile and adult halibut bycatch. Both are well versed in these debates and will make sure that issue is covered,” Alverson said.

Alternates for Peterson are Eric Olson and Paul Gronholt. Gronholt is a member of the Oagan Tayagungin Tribe and has been a commercial fisherman for over thirty-five years.

Olson, who has previously served on the Council, is a member of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and a former manager of the Yukon Delta Fisehreis Development Association. He has fished commercially for nearly forty years.

Alternates for Laukitis are Linda Behnken and Art Nelson. Behnken is executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. She also served on the Council and is currently a member of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust and the Halibut Coalition.

Nelson is executive director of the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association. He has fished commercially in Prince William Sound and worked for Kawerek Native Association managing projects that counted salmon escapement. Nelson has been a member of the Advisory Panel to the North Pacific Anadromous Fisheries Commission and the Alaska Board of Fisheries Kuskokwim Subsistence Salmon Panels, and is chair of the Steering Committee for A-Y-K Sustainable Salmon Initiative.

The Council is made up of 11 voting members, six of whom represent Alaska. Those members are preliminarily appointed by the governor of Alaska, with final approval coming from the Secretary of Commerce. Washington State has two members on the Council, and Oregon has one.