Frances Leach, pictured here in this undated photo, has been named the new executive director of the United Fishermen of Alaska, effective Jan. 5, 2018. (Photo courtesy the United Fishermen of Alaska)

Frances Leach, pictured here in this undated photo, has been named the new executive director of the United Fishermen of Alaska, effective Jan. 5, 2018. (Photo courtesy the United Fishermen of Alaska)

UFA names new executive director

The biggest commercial fishing organization in the state will have a new executive director in January.

The United Fishermen of Alaska, a statewide umbrella trade organization bringing together 34 area-specific fishing groups, announced the selection of Frances Leach as its new executive director. Leach, a Juneau resident, grew up in a commercial fishing family in Ketchikan, according to a Thursday news release.

“Frances has a proven track record of success and has demonstrated leadership during her professional career,” said UFA President Jerry McCune in the news release. “In addition, her life experience working in her family’s commercial fishing business makes her uniquely qualified to be UFA’s Executive Director.”

Leach, who is currently a regulations specialist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, is finishing up her work there this year and will take up her position at United Fishermen of Alaska on Jan. 5, 2018.

“I am excited for the opportunity to represent UFA,” Leach said in the news release. “Having grown up in a commercial fishing family in a coastal community, I understand the importance of commercial fishing to Alaska’s economy and cultural heritage. The commercial fishing industry faces many challenges at the state and federal level, and I look forward to addressing these challenges as UFA’s Executive Director.”

It will be the first time in two years that the organization has had an executive director, since former executive director Julianne Curry left at the end of 2015, said executive administrator Mark Vinsel.

The board of directors has stepped up and he has been filling in for some of the executive director’s duties in the meantime, he said.

“It’s really been a stretch, and we really look forward to having someone really qualified,” he said.

The United Fishermen of Alaska regularly lobbies on the behalf of the commercial fishing industry to the Alaska Legislature, the Board of Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and holds meetings in various regions on commercial fishing issues. The organization also conducts surveys and initiatives among commercial fishermen, such as its Salmon Habitat Information Project launched in July 2016.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabethearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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