Friends of fishing?

Posted: Wednesday, October 23, 2002

I have noticed with interest a campaign issue that has come up for discussion - particularly in letters to the editor and some political ads - concerning close associates of Fran Ulmer.

Often mentioned is Jim Ayers, long-time chief of staff to Gov. Tony Knowles and now top official within the Oceana Foundation. Fran Ulmer's supporters take exception to this inquiry, but concern is not unreasonable.

Supporters of Fran Ulmer who are commercial fishermen, or who make their living in that industry, might want to take a close look at Ayers Oceana Web site:

On the main page is a photo of a commercial fishing boat - not a big processor or factory trawler but the kind of boat you'd see moored in any fishing port in Alaska. This image links to Oceana's belief that commercial fishing is no more than sea-based strip mining.

The Web site shows three headquarters for the organization: in Washington, D.C., in California, and in Juneau. That's where Ayers fits in.

Oceana's immediate goal is to shut down commercial fishing in California. Oceana says, for now, it's OK with commercial fishing in Alaska - as long as otters are OK with it, too, and no coral gets damaged. Since otters can't talk, Oceana figures it might be best if the federal courts do the talking for them.

Oceana and the federal courts are not friends of Alaska's fishing industry.

If Fran Ulmer is elected as governor, she will appoint many, many state officials. Fran has worked hard to redefine herself as a political moderate. Perhaps she is? But are her friends?

Perhaps Frank Murkowski has not pleased everyone in the fishing industry. But Sen. Murkowski has a clear record of support for Alaska's commercial fishing. Does Oceana? Does Jim Ayers?

Taking Ayers as an example of a friend of Fran, it might be wise for her fishing-industry supporters to take a long look at their choice - and at their own future.

Richard Schmitz


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