Legislators approve 4 of 5 nominees to fisheries board

Alaska legislators on Tuesday, May 11, confirmed four of five appointments to the Board of Fisheries, a single nominee for the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, and two nominees to the Fishermen’s Fund Advisory and Appeals Council.

The joint legislative session said yes to the reappointments of Marit Carlson-Van Dort of Anchorage, John Jensen of Petersburg, and John Wood of Willow, and approved the appointment of McKenzie Mitchell of Fairbanks, but rejected the appointment of Abe Williams of Anchorage.

Williams’s appointment was controversial because he serves as director of regional affairs for the Pebble Limited Partnership.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, said that prior to the vote he had heard an unprecedented amount of opposition to Williams’s appointment from his constituents, including a joint letter from a number of Bristol Bay regional organizations. These organizations included Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., Bristol Bay Housing Authority, Bristol Bay Native Association, Bristol Bay Native Corp. and United Tribes of Bristol Bay. Williams’s role with the Pebble Limited Partnership makes him a polarizing figure in Bristol Bay and constituents made clear that Williams did not have the trust or relationships necessary in Bristol Bay to serve on the board, Edgmon said.

“Williams’ work to advance one of the most destructive projects facing salmon habitat in Alaska is clearly at odds with the Board of Fisheries’ charge to sustainably manage the state’s fisheries,” said veteran Bristol Bay harvester Robin Samuelsen, an advisor to Commercial Fishermen of Bristol Bay and former member of the fisheries board. “Today’s vote was a vote against the Pebble mine. I hope this sends a clear message to Gov. Dunleavy that Alaskans do not want him to continue to promote Pebble at the expense of our communities, fisheries and cultures in Bristol Bay.”

Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState, said legislators’ decision to reject Willliams’s nomination “was the right and proper thing to do and once again illustrates how deeply unpopular Pebble is with Alaskans.”

Legislators also confirmed the appointment of Melvin Smith of Anchorage to the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission and Marilyn Charles of Emmonak and Renee Weddle Alward of Homer to the Fishermen’s Fund Advisory and Appeals Council.