The future direction of a fisheries research facility in Kodiak appears in flux as the University of Alaska Fairbanks has formed a task force to review the workings of the Fishery Industrial Technology Center on Near Island. KMXT’s Jacob Resneck reports.
— (fish tech pkg 5:19 "Back in April … marine issues. I’m Jacob Resneck."
Back in April, the university’s School of Fisheries and Ocean Science’s advisory council wrote to the university chancellor that Fish Tech hasn’t "achieved its full promise." Advisory Council Chair David Policansky [poll-ih-kansky] signed the letter on behalf of the full board.
The committee has only now been formed and will meet for the first time next month. That’s because the Fish Tech’s director, Murat Balaban [ball-a-bin] has been, for reasons not clear, placed on "administrative leave." Balaban had been hired in 2008. A university spokeswoman said she could offer no further information.
Stepping in as an interim replacement is Paula Cullenberg, who works for the Marine Advisory Program. She’s been running the Fish Tech from her office in Anchorage for little more than two weeks. Cullenberg expects to stay on through the summer until a permanent director is found. In the meantime she says she’s focused on getting things back on track for the students and faculty.
Fish Tech runs a number programs doing research on the seafood industry. Policansky says it’s a unique center that has few counterparts.
Kodiak’s state House Representative Alan Austerman has been working to raise the center’s profile. He held a public meeting last week inviting commercial fishermen because he says few in the community are aware of the resource that exists in Kodiak.
Cullenberg says she hasn’t been privy to any discussions about closing Fish Tech and says so far that’s not something she thinks the university would consider. She says the existing graduate programs have had challenges but that the upcoming review is an opportunity.
An undergraduate program would be welcomed by Austerman who says there could be better ways to link Fish Tech with the community.
There will be a first-hand look at the types of work going in April when Fish Tech hosts the Kodiak Marine Science Symposium. There will be an open house as scientists come to Kodiak to deliver academic papers on fisheries and marine issues.
I’m Jacob Resneck