Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is required by state statute to appoint someone to the Board of Fisheries by today, Tuesday, May 19. However, his efforts to fill the seat have gone unfulfilled since he took office in January. The seven-member board serves as an in-state fishery management council for fisheries in state waters.

The resignation of Walker’s director of Boards and Commissions, Karen Gillis, fanned the flames of controversy late last week.

The convoluted tale begins with the Board of Fish Chairman Karl Johnstone’s departure before the end of his term after he learned he would not be reappointed in June.

Walker then appointed Roland Maw, who later withdrew his name and shortly thereafter faced criminal charges for illegally obtained hunting and fishing licenses in Montana.

Robert Ruffner, former executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum, was Walker’s next appointee. However, the Bob Penney-led group Kenai River Sportfishing Association began protesting Ruffner’s appointment based on the fact that he had support from commercial fishermen and would therefore be too biased to hold the seat. The Legislature voted not to appoint Ruffner in a 30-29 vote a month ago.

A rumored third nominee, Roberta Quintavell, applied for the open seat earlier this year. She appeared in a Kenai River Sportfishing Association advertisement.

Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) told the Alaska Dispatch that he spoke to Walker on Monday morning and expects the new candidate to be neutral.

“He reiterated his interest in a Board of Fisheries made up of members that hold equal value for each user group,” Micciche said in a phone interview.

Have you listened to this article via the audio player above?

If so, send us your feedback around what we can do to improve this feature or further develop it. If not, check it out and let us know what you think via email or on social media.

Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

Join the Conversation