Commentary: Not all fishermen support Sullivan

By Michael Kampnich and Tyson Fick
For The Cordova Times

We encourage independent-minded fishermen to support independent candidate Dr. Al Gross.

United Fishermen of Alaska’s recent endorsement of Sen. Dan Sullivan for the U.S. Senate is unfortunately a short-sighted and politically cautious view. It would also be a mistake for Alaskans to think that the United Fishermen of Alaska actually speaks for all fishermen in our great state.

To the contrary, UFA represents a cross section of fishermen and fishing interests including large corporate interests from the Pacific Northwest, and doesn’t always speak for small family fishing vessel interests.

While we acknowledge that Sullivan has recently advocated for some issues that benefit Alaska’s commercial fishing industry, the issues UFA recognized in its endorsement are nothing more than the bare minimum.

If Sullivan actually wanted to stand up for the small vessel family fishing operations that make coastal Alaska great, he’d be standing up to the Pebble Mine as an unacceptable risk to the Bristol Bay Watershed and the greatest run of sockeye salmon in the world.

If Sullivan actually cared about coastal Alaska and our fisheries, he would be calling out the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea trawl fisheries by-catch, which waste tens of thousands of king salmon, millions of pounds of juvenile halibut as well as crab, black cod and numerous other marine resources that have been killed and dumped overboard for years. This is an appallingly wasteful practice that must be ended.

Sullivan should also recognize that climate change and the increasing acidity of our oceans is the greatest threat of all to commercial fishermen and the wealth our oceans provide. His dismissal of Alaskans as “climate-alarmists” is unacceptable.

In all three of these issues, it is not only commercial fishermen who are looking for straight talk and decisive leadership, it is resident sport, personal use and subsistence fishermen who relish the opportunity to catch salmon and halibut, not to mention the guided sport industry who are a huge part of our coastal economy. Our greatest concern is the loss of opportunity to harvest salmon, halibut and many other marine resources that are a part of Alaskans food supply, economy and way of life.

In stark contrast to Sullivan, Alaska’s independent candidate, Dr. Al Gross, is a lifelong Alaskan who grew up in Southeast, began commercial fishing as a teenager and will not play games when it comes to protecting our environment and the wealth it provides for so many Alaskans.

That is why we encourage independent-minded fishermen to support independent candidate Dr. Al Gross to take Sullivan’s seat as Alaska’s next United States Senator.

Michael Kampnich is a 35-year resident of Craig. He has commercially fished as crew and/or more recently owner/operator for more than 32 years. He gillnets in Southeast Alaska and longlines for halibut. He has worked in the timber industry, for the city of Craig and, until recently, for The Nature Conservancy. Kampnich is a member of the Craig City Council.

Tyson Fick is a gillnetter who lives in Juneau. In the past, he has worked in the Alaska Legislature, the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development as a legislative liaison and as the communications director at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.