Council appointments approved, AP changes upcoming

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced the appointments of Buck Laukitis and Theresa Peterson to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council June 27, further strengthening Gov. Bill Walker’s fisheries management position on preserving local fisheries participation in coastal Alaska.

The nominations will go into effect Aug. 11. Governors submit nominations to the Commerce Department, which must then be approved by the secretary.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is the most economically powerful of eight regional councils that oversee federal fisheries between three and 200 miles off the U.S. coast. As of 2014, the North Pacific region accounts for 65 percent of the nation’s total seafood harvest value, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports.

Peterson and Laukitis replace Duncan Fields and David Long, respectively. Fields, a Kodiak attorney and fisherman, finished his third three-year term in June 2016, the maximum terms allowed consecutively under the U.S. fisheries governing regulation, the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Long, a Wasilla resident and Bering Sea groundfish fisherman, served one three-year term and was not reappointed though he did submit his name for consideration.

Peterson and Laukitis will fill two of six designated Alaska seats on the 11-member body.

Fields had a reputation on the council for boosting a specific vision of fisheries. He emphasized local ownership and active participation rather than the more corporatized systems of fishing quota and leasing arrangements common in many rationalized Alaska fisheries. Walker’s positions, and his Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten’s, largely align with this view.

Both Peterson and Laukitis, small vessel owners with conservation experience, fit into this mold, though both insist they hold no rancor for larger industrialized fisheries whose interests sometimes collide with the smaller operators.

A Kodiak setnetter like Fields and small vessel operator, Peterson said small-scale fishermen are “the most underrepresented” voice in the council process.

“I want the next generation of fishermen to have similar opportunities to commercial fish and work their way up to ownership,” Peterson said in a statement. “Small boat fishermen are the fabric of maritime communities around the state and their voices must be heard in the council arena along with large scale fisheries.”

Like Peterson, Laukitis hails from coastal Alaska and fishes traditionally small boat species with his family. Laukitis holds salmon licenses and halibut quota as well as an inactive trawl permit for Gulf of Alaska groundfish.

Both Peterson and Laukitis have ties to conservation group Alaska Marine Conservation Council, or AMCC, a non-profit that advocates for active coastal fisheries participation and conservation. Laukitis served as vice president of AMCC’s board of directors for eight years. Peterson currently serves as the group’s outreach coordinator.

The leadership shift will open a spot for newcomers into the council process, and a fishing violation may open yet another.

Peterson currently serves on the council’s Advisory Panel, or AP, a 20-member stakeholder group that makes management recommendations to the council.

The North Pacific Council is accepting nominations from stakeholders for an AP member to replace Peterson. Because Peterson’s council nomination is effective in August, the new AP appointee will fill out the remainder of her term through December 31, 2017. The council asks for letters of interest and/or nominations to be sent to [email protected] along with a resume.

Nominations close July 29.

The AP could potentially have another new member depending on the council’s will during its October meeting.

AP member Jeff Kauffman recently resigned as U.S. commissioner of the International Pacific Halibut Commission following a fishing violation that occurred in 2012 and settled in 2016.

Though Kauffman has resigned from the IPHC after being appointed this past December, it’s still unclear as to whether or not he will maintain his position on the other. Kauffman himself said he has no plans to discontinue serving on the AP.

The council maintains its own discretion in these matters, and hasn’t yet taken any action one way or another.

Chris Oliver, executive director of the North Pacific council, said he can’t remember a council member or an Advisory Panel member having been ejected due to fishing violations, though he said Kauffman is by no means the first to have encountered one.

As of June 28, Oliver hasn’t discussed the matter with council chairman Dan Hull, a halibut fishermen currently out on the water.

“It’ll be up to the council as to whether or not to do anything about it,” said Oliver. “This’ll be something they have to do in executive session, and we don’t have another scheduled meeting till October. If they wanted they could all a special session, but I’m not expecting that. I don’t know where this falls on the spectrum of egregiousness.”

DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected].


06/29/2016 - 8:07pm