Two Southeast fishing groups say they are disappointed that neither of Gov. Tony Knowles' latest two appointees to a federal fishing panel was a Southeast fisherman.
Knowles on Thursday appointed Stosh Anderson, a Kodiak fisherman and conservationist, and Juneau resident Stephanie Madsen, vice president of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association, to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which regulates commercial fishing in federal waters off Alaska. The appointments are subject to approval by the U.S. secretary of Commerce.
Anderson was picked to fill the seat of Kodiak fisherman Kevin O'Leary, who has moved from the state. Madsen was chosen to replace Linda Behnken, a Sitka fisherman, who was not eligible for another three-year term.
Behnken called both candidates "very qualified." However, she was disappointed Knowles chose them, saying it will be the first time in history Southeast fishermen will not have a representative on the council.
"Southeast is a unique area," said Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association in Sitka. "People are completely dependent on the hook-and-line fisheries. Now there's no one to speak for their concerns."
The Petersburg Vessel Owners Association released a statement supporting Madsen's appointment, but the group was disappointed with Anderson.
"We are disappointed that the governor chose a fisherman with no history of participation at the council nor extensive participation in Alaska groundfish fisheries," according to the statement.
The fishery management council has 11 voting members and regulates commercial catches of pollock, cod, halibut and other species in federal waters from three to 200 miles offshore.
Anderson is a longtime Bristol Bay salmon fisherman who also fishes for herring, halibut and black cod out of Kodiak, according to the governor's office. A spokesman for Knowles said Anderson understands issues facing Southeast fishermen, even though he does not fish here.
"Stosh (Anderson) is a small-boat fisherman, like a lot of the fishermen in Southeast. He has most of his experience in net gear, but he understands the industry and the problems that people in communities face," said Knowles spokesman Bob King.
Both candidates got a thumbs up from United Fishermen of Alaska, a statewide organization representing fishing groups and fishermen. Although UFA endorsed three other candidates, board president Bob Thorstenson said Anderson and Madsen are excellent people who will do a very good job.
"Basically we have a Kodiak person who's a fisherman and a member of UFA. And we got a processor representative who is an excellent advocate for the industry and a very sharp person," said Thorstenson. "It's unfortunate the Southeast (fishermen) representation no longer exists, but I'm comfortable we'll get that back in the future."
Anderson is also a founding member of the nonprofit, Anchorage-based Alaska Marine Conservation Council, which has campaigned against fish waste and bottom trawling.
Many fishermen who operate with trawl nets, which catch the bulk of Alaska's fish, regard the conservation council as an anti-trawling group made up of small-boat fishermen who use hooks and traps. Anderson said he has no problem with big nets that don't drag the bottom. He vowed to serve "with an open mind."
Kathy Dye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.