Commentary: Dunleavy unwilling to speak to Alaska commercial harvesters

By James “Jim” Erickson
For The Cordova Times

Mike Dunleavy decided not to participate in the fisheries debate in Kodiak. As a lifelong fisherman from a community that depends on healthy fisheries, I believe that we have a right to have our voices heard by those seeking to be Alaska’s next governor.

It is an insult to the men and woman who risk their lives on the ocean to ignore the issues facing our industry.

In my 45 years of fishing, I have seen some of the best and worst days of Alaska’s fisheries. I’ve heard my fair share of “fish stories” from fishermen and politicians alike. I’m a bit of an expert on detecting when someone is full of it.

I understand Dunleavy’s campaign manager, Brett Huber, is an opponent of commercial fishing in Cook Inlet, and the former director of the Kenai River Sports Fishing Association. It can’t be coincidence that Dunleavy is unwilling to speak to Alaska’s commercial fishermen.

If Dunleavy will not talk about fisheries issues, how can fishermen trust him to make decisions as governor in the interest of the fishing community?

Before oil, Alaskans were fishing. When oil dries up, Alaskans will still be fishing if (and only if) our elected officials act responsibly. Harvests are down, fuel prices are up, fishermen are getting older and the younger generation cannot afford boats and permits. When I retire, I want to hand my boat to a young Alaskan who will continue the tradition. We need a governor who can make sure that legacy continues.

From my understanding Dunleavy says he wants to cut the budget by a billion dollars. If these cuts come to fish and game the health of the state’s fisheries will suffer.

For 27 years, candidates have come to Kodiak to discuss their fisheries policy because they value fishermen from around Alaska.  They also come to prove they understand the industry and its challenges.

Does Dunleavy not care about the millions of dollars fishing taxes add to state revenue?

Or maybe he hasn’t thought much or bothered to learn much about fishing and doesn’t want to be embarrassed by his ignorance.

Each year fishing brings billions to Alaska’s economy. The seafood industry is the largest economic driver for many small communities, employing 21,000 Rural Alaskan residents, including me and my son.

Fishermen need to know where a governor stands on issues. Fishermen vote. And we vote for those who talk to us, respect us, and help us continue to preserve our way of life.

I cannot vote for a man who refuses to demonstrate basic respect for this important constituency, or even show he has a fundamental understanding of the issues we face. Unlike oil companies, we don’t have giant glass buildings, but make no mistake our industry, our voices and our votes matter.

Jim Ericson is a non-partisan voter and commercial fisherman from Hoonah, Alaska. He operates the F/V Caroline and has held a power troll permit since 1974.