Board of Fisheries nomination proves controversial

Duncan Fields. (Photo courtesy of Duncan Fields)

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The nomination of a Kodiak-based fisherman to the Alaska Board of Fisheries has led to concern about an overrepresentation of commercial fisheries interests on the board.

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Governor Bill Walker recently recommended Duncan Fields for the Board of Fisheries to fill the seat left by Anchorage’s Alan Cain, whose term is up this year.

Ricky Gease, the executive director of the Kenai River Sport Fishing Association, sees a need for that seat to go to someone with experience in Anchorage-based sports and personal use fishing.

“That’s part of it that that Anchorage area deserves representation that really can’t be matched from other areas, and then that there’s a balance between commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence fisheries, and we feel that this appointment would bring a clear majority of commercial fishing interests and bring an unbalanced board, which I don’t feel does any sector any favors.”

The Kenai River Sport Fishing Association was among 16 outdoor sporting organizations from around the state that signed a letter against the appointment. They sent it to the Alaska State Legislature Monday.

The letter says, for years, the Board of Fisheries had three seats for commercial fishing representation, three for sport and personal use, and one for subsistence.

But it’s not so neatly organized, according to others.

Kodiak Representative Louise Stutes is the chair of the House Special Committee on Fisheries, which will hold a confirmation hearing and interview Fields for the Board of Fisheries.

Stutes says, looking at the board members, Fields would be balancing the board out. She describes what she sees as a mixture of sports and subsistence experiences among board members.

“Those are their basic interests. I don’t want to say that they’re anti-commercial because I don’t think anyone on the board is anti one or the other, or I like to think that they’re not.”

Board of Fisheries candidate Duncan Fields is a commercial fisherman and vessel owner and has a long history of involvement on the regulatory side of fisheries. That includes serving on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

He feels the concern about his commercial fisheries background is misplaced.

“As a representative of rural communities, I have worked on a number of sports fish issues on behalf of the sports fishermen in those communities. I’ve worked on a number of halibut charter issues on behalf of charter fishermen. I’ve worked on subsistence issues throughout my career in fisheries. So, it’s unfair I think to pigeonhole me as a commercial guy or simply a commercial fisherman.”

Fields says he wants to get involved on some of the big issues coming before the Board of Fisheries in the next few years. For instance, the redevelopment of fishery management plans following changes under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the effect of invasive species like Northern Pike on salmon.

Fields’ hearing was originally set for today, but cancelled due to scheduling changes according to Stutes’ office. The legislature doesn’t vote on the appointment until the end of the legislative session.

Edit 03/21: Duncan Fields served on both the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the council’s advisory panel. A former version of this article only referenced his time on the advisory panel.

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