NPFMC appointments will be announced this week

NPFMC appointees must be announced by June 27; shakeups are expected.

by | June 24, 2024

Governors of AK and WA have ‘preferred’ nominees

The deadline to name names is June 27 – and if you’re making bets, the odds are in favor of two new Alaskans being seated on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) on August 10.

The NPFMC has jurisdiction over the 900,000-square-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off Alaska that includes oversight of dozens of groundfish and crab species. Alaskans hold five voting seats on the Council.

In mid-March, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy submitted to the US Secretary of Commerce the names of John Moller of Juneau, John Jensen of Petersburg and Sam Rabung of Juneau to be considered for the obligatory commercial fishing seat.

Jensen has been a member of the NPFMC since 2018 and Rabung currently is head of the Commercial Fisheries Division of the AK Dept. of Fish and Game.

Industry watchers predict Moller will be “a slam dunk” for the NPFMC seat.

Moller knows fish but brings some baggage

Moller was a co-chair for Dunleavy’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign. He raised eyebrows in 2021 when he abruptly left his position as Dunleavy’s rural affairs advisor with no explanation. Public records indicated that some kind of personnel investigation involving Moller took place that remains unknown. 

More recently, Moller was retained in March 2024 by the state-owned Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) “aimed at boosting its standing in the rural regions where it’s proposed controversial projects,” wrote Nat Herz at Northern Journal. They include oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a mining access road that would cross a national park in Northwest Alaska and another access road to mineral deposits and other natural resources in the Susitna River watershed, west of Anchorage. 

The contract with Moller’s business calls for him to be paid $283 an hour and no more than $204,000 over its one-year term, which can be extended for up to three years.

In Dunleavy’s NPFMC nomination letter, he said: “Mr. John Moller, an Aleut from Unalaska with a lifelong connection to subsistence and commercial fishing, has served on the Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska Council and the Ounalashka Corporation Board. With four decades in commercial fishing, he is the owner and operator of a vessel operating in Southeast Alaska, with experience from Amchitka to Nome. He has managed both a halibut charter vessel and fish processing plants in Adak and Atka and led a Western Alaska Community Development Quota Organization. His six years on the NPFMC Advisory Panel and involvement in its Crab and CDQ Committees bring a vital, well-rounded perspective to the Council’s decision-making.” 

Brian Ritchie is a shoe-in for recreational seat

Brian Ritchie of Homer is widely expected to be named to the obligatory NPFMC recreational seat, . He will replace Andy Mezirow of Seward who served nine years on the Council.

Dunleavy wrote in his nomination letter: “I respectfully request that you appoint Mr. Brian Ritchie. Mr. Ritchie currently sits on the NPFMC Advisory Panel where he serves as Chairman. He is a former participant in the Homer Charter Association Board, and currently is a part of the Alaska Charter Association Board, Young Fishermen’s Network, the IPHC Research Advisory Board, IPHC Conference Board, and is a former AMCC Fishing Fellow. Mr. Ritchie was born and raised in Homer, Alaska, where fishing commercially and recreationally are vital to the local economy and the culture. His upbringing and fisheries involvement have brought him a deep understanding of the value of the varied sectors and fleets that fish and subsist in the North Pacific. He received a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science from APU. His studies were focused on fisheries. The education and guidance he had through the development of his thesis helped him gain new perspectives on fisheries science, management, and their interactions. Mr. Ritchie seeks to bring these perspectives to the Council and to help ensure that management is based on sound science and on weighing the interests and wellbeing of all stakeholders.”

Ritchie’s thesis was titled “Pacific halibut spatial dynamics and size-at-age in the Gulf of Alaska.” Funding for this work was provided by the Pollock Conservation Cooperative and the Groundfish Forum via the Alaska Education Tax Credit Program.

WA governor changes NPFMC gears; Goen rumored to also fill a seat

Two NPFMC voting members represent the State of Washington and outgoing Governor Jay Inslee named his nominees “in priority order.”

One seat is now held by Anne Vanderhoeven, who is Director of Government Affairs for Arctic Storm Management Group comprised of large trawlers.

Vanderhoeven placed last in Inslee’s list of NPFMC candidates to be selected. That reportedly prompted trawl lobbyists to head in droves to Washington, DC to plead for her seat to remain, calling other nominees “politically motivated.”

Inslee’s first choice is Becca Robbins-Gisclair, Senior Director of Arctic Programs for Ocean Conservancy. Inslee wrote: “She works closely with Alaska Tribes and grassroots organizations to protect a region that is on the frontlines of global climate change. She developed an in-depth understanding of the Bering Sea ecosystem and fisheries through two decades of involvement in the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) process, including six years on the Advisory Panel with four of those in leadership, and as a Board member of the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB). She serves as a domestic advisor for the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission and the Bering Sea Fishery Advisory Body and has worked for several Alaska organizations as a natural resources advisor.” 

Gov. Inslee’s second choice is Jamie Goen, Executive Director of the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, a trade organization representing crab harvesters. Industry insiders say that Goen will be named to fill the seat of Kenny Down, a longline rep, who recently died from cancer.

Inslee wrote: “She participates regularly in the North Pacific Fishery Management Council process and has worked with four of the eight regional fishery management councils around the country. Ms. Goen has broad experience in fisheries management after working for NOAA Fisheries for 15 years and as part of the leadership team at the International Pacific Halibut Commission. She has hands-on experience working on boats, working with all gear sectors from open access to rationalized fisheries, working for domestic and international fisheries, and conducting oceanographic research around the world that is the foundation of climate science.”

Elaine Harvey, the Watershed Department Managers for the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission, also was named as a NPFMC nominee.

The NPFMC in total has 11 voting members – 5 appointed seats from Alaska and 2 from Washington, plus four non-voting members from agencies that include the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of State, and the US Coast Guard.

The new NPFMC members will take their seats on August 10, 2024.

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.

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