Walker nominates 2, including fish board chair, to federal fish council

Gov. Bill Walker has nominated two Alaskans for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council — one a current member and one the chairman of the Board of Fisheries.

John Jensen of Petersburg, one of the nominees, has served on the Board of Fisheries since 2003. He is the chairman and the longest serving member on the board. He has a background in commercial fishing and owns a seasonal skiff rental business.

Andy Mezirow of Seward, the other nominee, has served on the board since 2015. He owns Gray Light Sportfishing and was the chief officer of the University of Alaska’s R/V Alpha Helix in the 1990s.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council oversees fisheries in federal waters of the North Pacific, reaching between three and 200 nautical miles offshore. That includes a variety of fisheries, from crab rationalization to halibut bycatch. It is federally facilitated and one of 12 regional councils established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act in 1976.

The council is rewriting a federal fishery management plan for the Cook Inlet salmon fishery. The board deferred management formally to the state in 2012 with an amendment known as Amendment 12, but a 2016 court decision overturned the amendment, forcing the council to revisit fishery management for salmon in the area. The council has established a stakeholder working group to gather information about the Cook Inlet salmon fishery while developing the plan, and will receive an update from the group at its upcoming April 2–10 meeting in Anchorage.

Walker nominated Jensen as his preferred nominee, with two alternates — Dan Falvey, a program manager of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, and Tom Panamaroff, the regional and legislative affairs executive for Koniag Inc., according to a March 12 letter to National Marine fisheries Service Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Chris Oliver. He named commercial fisherman Paul Gronholdt and Yakutat Seafoods manager Greg Indreland as alternates for Mezirow.

Jensen’s nomination, announced Wednesday, comes amid controversy over Walker’s nomination of Kodiak resident Duncan Fields to the Board of Fisheries to replace current member Al Cain. Fields, who has also served on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and has fished salmon commercially in Kodiak, attracted the ire of sportfishing groups statewide, who wrote in a letter to the Legislature that his appointment would tip the balance of the board toward commercial fishing interests and leave Anchorage, the state’s most populous region, without a representative.

In a news release announcing the nominations, Walker said he supported expanding the Board of Fisheries to include nine members to help avoid the representation conflicts but continues to support Fields’ appointment.

“… (Fields’) appointment underscores the constant struggle to achieve balance on the Board,” Walker said. “Not only is there an array of user groups — from commercial and sportfish to subsistence and personal use — there are also distinct regions which deserve representation when management issues are considered. It is not always possible to balance every need every year.”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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