Friday night, without an announcement, Gov. Bill Walker nominated a commercial fisherman from Kodiak to replace a sport fishing representative from Anchorage on the Board of Fisheries. The governor quietly slipped his nominee’s name to the House and Senate leadership after business hours.
If the nomination of Duncan Fields is confirmed by the Legislature, there will be no Board of Fisheries representative from Anchorage.
But the appointment of Fields has another purpose, besides being an unwelcome assault against dip-netters and anglers of Alaska, particularly Southcentral. The appointment would keep Fields from running against Rep. Louise Stutes, a Kodiak Republican who has fallen out of favor with Alaska Republicans and who joined the Democratic-run House majority.
Either way, the governor has put Fields in a lose-lose position, because if he keeps his name in for consideration and is denied confirmation, he’ll have gone through a reputation-bruising battle that will damage his chances of unseating Stutes in August.
By the same token, it’s a win-win for the governor: He can poke a stick in the eye of gubernatorial candidate Mike Dunleavy, who has the support of one of the biggest sport fishing advocates in Alaska, Bob Penney.
If Fields wins confirmation, Gov. Walker then takes him out of circulation as a candidate and preserves that Kodiak seat for someone who is in Walker’s camp: Stutes. It’s an easy choice for Walker.
SPORTS FISHERS ARE LIVID
The sports fishing community is up in arms. There was no public announcement that the governor is changing the board balance from being weighted evenly between sports and commercial, with one seat for subsistence to what would be a clearly commercial fisheries board, with four seats.
“This appointment will unbalance the Board and we strongly oppose the nomination,” said Kenai River Sportfishing Association Executive Director Ricky Gease. “Past governors have for years kept the Board balanced in regional representation and between commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence user groups. By stacking the Board with a majority voice of commercial fishing interests – and with no one from Anchorage – the governor is threatening Alaskans’ opportunity to harvest fish.”
When Walker was elected, Karl Johnstone was the chair of the Board of Fisheries, representing the sports fishing seat for Anchorage. The governor said he would not reappoint him, so Johnstone left on his own terms, and Walker appointed Roland Maw.
Maw became caught up in various scandals involving taking Permanent Fund Dividends while not actually residing in Alaska, and is still in court over those and related allegations.
FIELDS FOR HOUSE
In 2016, Fields ran against Louise Stutes, after she had joined with the Democrats, and he took Kodiak by about 150 votes.
However, he had run without a party affiliation and had little name recognition in Cordova and other communities outside of Kodiak. This year, he was planning to run as a Republican to take on Stutes in the August primary. Being on the Board of Fisheries would end that plan, and Republicans would have to search for someone else to challenge Stutes.
Born in Kodiak, Fields has served as the president of the Kodiak Island Borough School District. He has a law degree from the University of Oregon, is married, and has six children.
He has served on many fisheries boards and councils:
UH-OH: EMERGENCY ORDERS CLOSE FISHING AREAS
On Tuesday, the Department of Fish and Game closed commercial salmon fishing with set gillnets in all waters of the Northern District of Upper Cook Inlet for the 2018 directed king salmon fishery. The fishing dates affected by this closure are May 28, and June 4, 11, and 18.
The Division of Sport Fish also closed the entire Susitna River drainage to the harvest of king salmon. Sport fishing for king salmon will only be allowed in the Deshka River and Yentna River system. These drainages will be restricted to catch-and-release only for king salmon; no harvest will be allowed.
“The objective of these restrictions and closures is to achieve all Susitna River escapement goals by eliminating sport and commercial harvest of these stocks. Based on inseason information, fishing opportunity may be restored where and when possible while ensuring escapement goals are achieved,” the department explained in its emergency order.