Sea Grant’s Torie Baker resigns

Availability of University of Alaska funds will determine future of Sea Grant post

Torie Baker of UAF Alaska Sea Grant teamed with Sue Pridgen-Webb, a State of Alaska Public Health Nurse (Juneau), to offer free hearing screenings. Cordova volunteer Eva Loforte performed more than 60 screenings during the Cordova Health Fair on Saturday, April 21, 2018. Photo by Susan Pridgen-Webb

Alaska Sea Grant’s veteran Cordova agent Torie Baker has resigned her post effective at the end of December to deal with family matters in the Lower 48, but says the community where she has lived for the past 30 years will remain her home.

In her role with Sea Grant in Cordova over the past 15 years Baker has focused on marine boat safety training in Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska, plus seafood processor and direct marketer support, commercial fishing business assistance, research collaboration and local outreach. Her areas of expertise are commercial fishing, seafood marketing, community and online education.

Baker is also one of the more active instructors in the Sea Grant program for the Alaska Marine Safety Association, teaching commercial fishing drill conductor courses and “Boating Without The Boys,” said Jerry Dzugan, AMSEA director. The course, primarily for women in recreational boating, brought feedback from students who told AMSEA, “I felt like it was okay to ask questions now,” because the instructor was a woman, Dzugan said.

“She has been very attuned to the needs of the industry. Her active background in fisheries as a vessel owner-operator, formal education background, AMSEA instructor experience, and her sincerity, enthusiasm and positive attitude has made her a remarkably effective agent for change,” Dzugan said.

“Fishermen she trained have survived emergencies at sea and were grateful for the training she brought to them. The credibility Torie brought to her work will be hard to replace but we know she will bring these same skills with her to her next ventures,” he said.

Alaska Sea Grant officials noted that Baker has been a key member of their team, providing the public with information and expertise on marine safety, ocean literacy, direct marketing, scientific research, safe seafood handling and more.

On a management level, Baker has played a key role in organizing the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit, three-day events to educate those new to the harvesting industry on business and other skills, including networking.

Baker came to the Sea grant Marine Advisory Program initially to head its trade adjustment assistance program, which then emerged as another multi-year effort called FishBiz, providing business management education to commercial fishermen.

Baker also worked recently with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on a pilot project on health risks faced by commercial harvesters. The study produced by the project identified issues including hearing loss and sleep disruption among harvesters, information that Baker used to arrange for hearing tests for harvesters at a community health fair.

With her plans right now in flux, Baker isn’t certain when she will be back in Cordova full-time, but said it will definitely remain home.

The availability of funding through the University of Alaska will be a deciding factor in filling the Cordova Sea Grant post.

Baker noted that Cordova has had a fisheries extension agent for 43 years, even before affiliation with the Sea Grant program and that she hopes this will continue.

Heather Brandon, director of Alaska Sea Grant, referred questions about funding the Cordova agent’s post in the future, to Brad Moran, Dean of the University of Alaska College of Fisheries and Ocean Science, who was not immediately available. The university is struggling with financial issues, some of which will be in the hands of the upcoming Alaska Legislature.