Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association leader to retire

The executive director of Cook Inlet’s regional hatchery organization is planning to step down.

Gary Fandrei, the executive director of Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, announced his plans to retire from the organization Jan. 2. He’s served in the role since 1997 after initially joining the organization as a fishery biologist in 1990.

As executive director, Fandrei oversees the nonprofit’s four hatcheries, various fish stocking and passage programs and day-to-day operations. Though he transitioned to more administrative work when he took the position as executive director, he still participated in field work when possible, according to a Jan. 2 news release from CIAA.

“Gary worked tirelessly for CIAA,” the release states. “It was not unusual for him to work seven days a week, especially if he could still dip his toes into field work with an occasional trip to one of the remote project sites such as Packers Lake. Gary’s professionalism and dedication will be deeply missed.”

There isn’t a firm date for the end of his tenure yet — Fandrei will stay on until the organization can find a new executive director, according to the news release. The search began this January.

Fandrei said he wasn’t sure about his future plans yet. He is originally from the upper Midwest and said he wasn’t sure about leaving Alaska after retiring.

“I actually enjoy living up in Alaska,” he said. “My wife and I talked about it, and we said we don’t want to do anything different.”

CIAA is one of the regional hatchery organizations around Alaska that release salmon smolt to supplement the wild runs that return to the rivers each year. In Cook Inlet, the Trail Lakes Hatchery near Seward focuses on sockeye salmon production and the Tutka Bay and Port Graham hatcheries in Lower Cook Inlet produce pink salmon.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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