Mom started setnetting when I was six. The Inlet had something of an undertow and I got my feet wet with the nets. When I was 19, I married a girl who was in the industry with both feet. We formed a partnership with an old-timer and now, 30 years later, find ourselves into setnetting over our heads.
May I mention how Tony Knowles treated my people? In spite of the fact that Alaska has more setnetters than any other type of commercial fishers, he never appointed such a webslinger to the Board of Fish. He did appoint Cook Inlet fishers. And every one a disciple of Bob Penney!
First there was Bob's star, Dan Coffey. He is a lawyer who had been involved in legal attempts to beach local commercial fishers. His mind is sharp and his tongue athletic. Knowles appointed Larry Engel, a retired sport fish biologist who had become a lobbyist for anti-Cook Inlet commercial fishing groups. Larry was a catalogue regarding area fisheries. And he never hesitated to use that vast resource in opposition to commercial gear.
And the Governor appointed Ed Dersham, a Cook Inlet sport guide.
To balance these sport/guide appointees, Tony gave us John White. White drift fished in the Kuskokwim River. Of the commercial fisheries in Alaska, nearly no one does that. On top of which, White's fishery was closed for lack of fish and he believed this problem was of other commercial fishers' making. As a result, he never hesitated to drub Cook Inlet commercial fisheries and express contempt for their managers. Knowles also appointed commercial fisher Virgil Umphenour. Unfortunately, he fished near Fairbanks with a fish wheel. Again, few commercial fishers do that, and the man ran a fish processing plant in which sport caught fish were important products. Obviously, Umpy was not readily endeared to my commercial friends.
And Knowles appointed a Sitka seiner, Grant Miller. I liked him, but sadly, Miller lost his permit in a divorce settlement. In fact, at one point the entire Board of Fish did not have a single person who commercially fished salmon!
But Knowles wasn't done. He appointed Bob Penney to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. And another Penney crony, Bret Huber, to the Fish Board. This last appointment would have been the most damaging, coming after the area was softened by previous bombs. Thankfully, the legislature didn't confirm Huber, and Frank Murkowski found a more balanced approach to fishery appointments.
I'm no fan of nepotism, but I'll vote Lisa in a heartbeat.
Brent Johnson, Kasilof
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