Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Kevin Duffy announced Thursday he will leave the department after 24 years to accept a high-level job in the Bering Sea-Aleutian Islands pollock trawling industry.
His decision stunned some commercial fishermen who considered him an important ally in state government. Gov. Frank Murkowski said he would be missed.
"I am sorry to lose such a valuable member of my cabinet, but I am grateful for his many contributions to the state," Murkowski said in a prepared statement.
Duffy is the second Murkowski-appointed commissioner in two months to accept an industry job. State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Ernesta Ballard left Alaska on Oct. 25 to work for U.S. logging giant Weyerhaeuser Co.
Duffy will continue at Fish and Game until Dec. 31. Then he will move to the Seattle area, where he has accepted a position as executive director of the At-Sea Processors Association, a coalition of seven companies that operate processor ships in Alaska.
The association has been controversial in the past because of environmentalists' objections to trawling and coastal communities' wariness about at-sea processing.
Duffy said he will be in charge of recruitment efforts in Alaska and will spend a lot of time at the association's recruitment office in Anchorage.
He also will work with At-Sea's Washington, D.C., lobbyist on federal fishing policy, including hot topics in the upcoming congressional session such as reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and implementing dramatic changes to ocean regulation recommended by the U.S. Ocean Policy Commission.
Duffy first joined Fish and Game in 1981 to work on salmon issues, and helped negotiate the Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada, Washington state and Oregon. He increased predator control programs to beef up moose and caribou populations on behalf of hunters.
"I don't know who could replace him," said Joe Childers, president of the Western Gulf of Alaska Fishermen Association and vice president of the United Fishermen of Alaska. "Kevin was very highly regarded by the (fishing) industry. You run into very few people who have this broad a knowledge base for what has happened with Alaska fishery policy."
Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.