JUNEAU (AP) -- Outgoing Fish and Game Department Deputy Commissioner David Benton and Kenai River sportfishing activist Bob Penney are Gov. Tony Knowles' choices for seats on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
Alaskans fill six seats on the 11-member council, the federal advisory panel that regulates fishing within the United States' 200-mile limit off Alaska. Terms are for three years and begin Aug. 10.
Final selection of appointments will be made by Commerce Secretary William Daley in late June.
Knowles said Benton is an appropriate choice because of his years of work on the council and that no one has a better understanding of the complex issues of fishery management.
Knowles said Penney has worked for years to improve fisheries and habitat.
''Coming directly from the sport fishing community, he fills a presence that has been lacking at the council table,'' Knowles said.
Penney said he was honored to be asked to serve on the council.
"I will bring a different background to the council," he said in a press release Wednesday. "I do not come from industry sources, but from the public user side, as a lifelong angler."
Not everybody is as thrilled about the appointment as Penney is, however.
"I found the appointment pretty surprising and kind of disappointing," said Phil Squires, president of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, a commercial fishing group. "I think what the governor has done is politically polarizing. My belief is that Mr. Penney would be pretty interested in the halibut issue, which is just a small part of what the council covers. I don't know if there's anything on his resume for him to address other issues such as groundfish allocations."
Penney said that while he has "a lot to learn," he said that his 30 years of experience in Cook Inlet and related fisheries has made him familiar with fish stock issues.
The governor said neither Benton nor Penney has a direct financial interest in the fisheries they will regulate and that will strengthen public confidence in the council process.
Benton has served as Fish and Game deputy commissioner since 1994, specializing in international fisheries issues. He plans to quit at the end of June.
Benton has been the state's representative to the council for the past five years and has represented Alaska in salmon treaty negotiations with Canada and in numerous international panels on salmon, pollock, and other species.
Penney heads a family-owned real estate development company and is active in various retail businesses in Anchorage. He is founder of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association and the Kenai River Classic. Penney also is part-owner of a fishing lodge in Bristol Bay, past president of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and a founder of the Resource Development Council.
Benton succeeds outgoing council Chairman Rick Lauber, who cannot be reappointed after serving three terms on the council.
Penney succeeds retired Coast Guard Commander Joe Kyle, who served one term on the council and previously represented the Coast Guard on the council.
As required by law, Knowles nominated two alternates for each seat. Alternates for Penney include halibut charter boat captain Tim Evers of Ninilchik and sport fish enthusiast Phil Cutler of Anchorage.
Alternates for Benton are two Juneau commercial fishers who have been active in Pacific Salmon Treaty negotiations: gillnetter Jev Shelton and seiner Jim Bacon.
Peninsula Clarion reporter Jay Barrett contributed to this story.
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