The U.S. Secretary of Commerce announced Monday the appointment of 19 new and returning members to the eight regional fishery management councils around the country that advise the National Marine Fisheries Service. In Alaska those appointments to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council went to Buck Laukitis of Homer and Theresa Peterson of Kodiak.
Peterson had previously served for seven years on the Council’s Advisory Panel.
“So while serving on the Advisory Panel has been a great opportunity and a great opportunity to learn more about the process, we were in a little bit easier position, ’cause you’re merely advising the council. But it’s the council is the one making the official recommendation on the management system,” she said. “One person who I know and respect in this process referred to it as really moving into the big leagues and playing at another level in the policy arena.”
Peterson’s nomination by Governor Bill Walker, along with his selection of Fish and Game commissioner and other actions has signaled a shift somewhat away from the rush towards privatizing the stocks, as was done a decade ago with crab in the Bering Sea.
“Catch shares have benefited the resources and a variety of user groups in many very beneficial ways,” Peterson said, adding, “But as we look into the future of the Gulf of Alaska, I think there’s a general sense kind of values and a mind-set to try to move forward in a way that captures the experiences from past catch shares and management designs that move into a more forward-looking approach, that not only provides the tools and addresses, ideally, many of the bycatch concerns in the Gulf of Alaska, but also serves to provide opportunity for the future.”
The opportunities for future fishermen to enter the industry is an important theme for Peterson. One she has repeated many times. But being for opportunities doesn’t mean Peterson is not sympathetic to fisheries in the Gulf that see privatization as the path to success.
“You know the trawl fleet, particularly in the Gulf has really been struggling to maintain a viable industry. They are absolutely under a lot of pressure with the bycatch reductions that are in place,” Peterson said. “And so it’s going to be important to everyone to work together and find middle ground and move a new program forward that will work, again, for the present and for the future.”
Peterson came to Alaska in 1983 and took a job in a cannery, only to be almost immediately lured onto a long-liner. In the last 33 years, she has participated in numerous fisheries, bought her own 42-foot fishing vessel, the Patricia Sue, and has a salmon setnet site on Kodiak Island near Alitak Bay.