Four in Juneau vie for fish council seat

Governor to narrow down 12 applicants to three nominees

Posted: Thursday, August 31, 2006

Four Juneau residents are among 12 applicants seeking to fill a position on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

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The 11 voting members of the council oversee management of the fisheries in federal waters off Alaska, between three and 200 miles offshore.

Juneau applicants are Robert Loescher, Joe Childers, John Moller and Heather McCarty.

A council seat was recently vacated by longtime Petersburg fisherman Arne Fuglvog, who resigned to work in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

"Whoever takes his spot has big shoes to fill," said Stephanie Madsen, council chairman and vice president of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association.

Loescher is an industrial research consultant and former CEO of Sealaska Corp. In his earlier years, he worked on a seine boat and he recently held licenses in power trolling and hand trolling for salmon.

A point of view from the communities that host on-shore fishermen and processors would be brought to the council, if he was appointed, Loescher said. Revenue from fishing is significant to the tax bases of many coastal communities, he added.

On-shore fishermen and processors face competition from off-shore operations, and there should be a balance between them, Loescher said.

"There needs to be some balance in how they allocate various fisheries," he added.

Childers is a commercial fisherman and executive director of the Western Gulf of Alaska Fishermen Association.

The focus of the council should be placed on conservation so that fish are available to future fishermen, Childers said.

"For me, the whole point of the North Pacific council ... is to ensure long-term viability - not just for the resource, but for the ecosystem the resource depends on," he said.

Former commercial fisherman and seafood industry consultant McCarty has been in Alaska's seafood industry for 30 years, she said.

Science and research may help the council resolve contentious issues over the stellar sea lions and bycatch, McCarty said.

"I think I can contribute my experience in marine research," she added.

Moller is a commercial fisherman and general manager of the Juneau-based Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association. Attempts to reach Moller on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Childers and Moller serve on the council's advisory board.

Anchorage candidates are Ben Ellis, managing director of the Institute of the North; Sandra Moller, CEO of the Aleut Enterprise Corp.; and A. Bruce Tiedeman, former executive of Chugach Native Corp. and community relations manager for the Alaska Energy Authority.

Kodiak applicants are Duncan Fields, an attorney, commercial fisherman and natural resources consultant; Walter Sargent, commercial fisherman; and Jeff Stephen, director of the United Fisherman's Marketing Association.

The list also includes Petersburg's Gerry Merrigan, of the government affairs office for Prowler Fisheries; and Homer's Peter Garay, president of the Alaska Marine Pilots.

The governor will nominate three from the list to be chosen by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Ideally, the governor's office would like to have its nomination cleared before the council's October meeting, said Boards and Commission director Susan Fischetti.

Besides Madsen, the council has two other Juneau residents: Commissioner McKie Campbell of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Jim Balsiger, Alaska regional administrator for National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Fisheries.

A position on the council is more about where one has fished, rather than where one calls home, Madsen said.

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