SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Gubernatorial Candidates Better Start Boning Up On Fish
By Laine Welch


December 18, 2005

Candidates for Alaska governor better starting boning up on fish.

Invitations are going out this week to all those who have so far thrown their hats into the 2006 gubernatorial ring. The candidates are being invited to come to Kodiak in mid-March to participate in the popular "goober debate," which has been held every four years since 1990 as part of the ComFish trade show.
jpg Laine Welch

"The debate has always attracted the full slate of candidates, and it gives the public their first glimpse at the line up in the election year," said Norm Wooten, director of the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, which organizes ComFish.  There's one catch. The candidates are limited to a single topic: Alaska's seafood industry.

 "It's the life blood of our coastal communities and puts more people to work than any other industry. It's important for Alaskans to hear all the candidates' views and how much they know about our fishing industry," Wooten said. 

The Gubernatorial Candidates' Debate is set for Thursday, March 16 from 7-9pm   in Kodiak. As usual, it will be broadcast live statewide via the Alaska Public Radio Network, and streamed on the Internet.   

Wooten encourages anyone who plans to attend ComFish (March 16-18) to make lodging plans early, as Kodiak will also be hosting two other events. "A big film crew will be here for a movie about the U.S. Coast Guard starring Kevin Costner, and the Kodiak Rocket Launch Complex also has something going on. Everyone's welcome, but we want to make sure our ComFish folks get squared away first," he said.

Get more information about ComFish at or by calling the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce at 907-486-5557.
UNIVERSITY TRAINED SCIENTISTS STAY IN AK - When it comes to churning out top scientists in fisheries, marine biology and oceanography, Alaska's university system really delivers. And there's no brain drain - most of them remain in the state, said Denis Wiesenburg, Dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (SFOS) at the University of Alaska/Fairbanks.  "Of our graduate students in fisheries, 71 percent stay and work in Alaska after they get their degrees. Thirty-seven percent of those go to work for ADF&G, and another 20 percent go to work for federal agencies in Alaska. So we are really educating and training the future workforce and leaders for the fishing industry," Wiesenburg said. The SFOS has four other campuses in Juneau, Seward, Kodiak and Anchorage, along with Marine Advisory agents and programs in nine communities.

Topping the SFOF's wish list this year is a boat that breaks ice. The current research vessel, Alpha Helix, is the oldest ship in the academic fleet. Originally built in 1966 for research on the Amazon River, it was later given to UAF and strengthened for work in the ice. "It can push ice around but it can't break itjust enough to get you in trouble," Wiesenburg said on a recent visit to Kodiak.

A new, 133 foot research vessel has been in the planning and design stages for 30 years, and Wiesenburg said it is listed as a priority for federal funding this year.  Its $82 million price tag might pose a challenge, but with all the attention being paid to global warming in the Arctic, Wiesenburg said he is confident it will get the nod from Congress. "I've told the folks at the National Science Foundation that if we wait another 30 years, we won't need the ice breaking capability more," he added with a laugh. 
FISH FELLOWSHIP FUNDING ­ On a related note: the Rasmuson Fisheries Research Center invites current and future graduate students to conduct research within the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. The Center was founded in 1994 by Elmer Rasmuson with a million dollar endowment to UAF. Subsequent to his death in 2000, a second major endowment was created through a bequest from Mr. Rasmuson's estate. The endowments are managed by the University of Alaska Foundation, and interest on the principal is used to support the marine research of graduate students. Ten graduate students are currently funded on Rasmuson fellowships, including Bill Bechtol for a research project that aims to unlock the mystery of the disappearance of king crab around Kodiak Island. (Funding for that did not come from the Rasmuson Foundation, as previously reported.) The fellowships include a graduate stipend and full tuition. The deadline to apply for 2005/2006 fellowship awards is January 26. Get more details at .
STEWARDSHIP & SUSTAINABILITY AWARDS - Here's more proof that the trend towards rewarding well managed fisheries at with higher seafood sales is no passing fad.   NOAA Fisheries has announced its first Stewardship and Sustainability awards for outstanding performance and leadership. Industries, organizations and individuals will be honored in six categories:  Conservation Partnership for collaborative work among stakeholders; Science, Research and Technology in applied fisheries research; Coastal Habitat Restoration; Public Education, Community Service and Media; and a Lifetime Service Award for innovative management and outstanding leadership.

This will be the first in an annual series of awards to be announced each February in conjunction with the anniversary of the agency's predecessor ­ the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries established in 1871. Winners will receive framed reproductions of the fish sketches commissioned in the 1870s by the Commission at a special awards dinner. "We hope this will be regarded as a respected and sought-after recognition by our stakeholders," said spokesperson Laurel Bryant. Nominations forms are available on the web at the new Office of Constituent Services ( or contact The deadline is January 10th. 


Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska's seafood industry since 1988. Her Fish Factor column appears weekly in over a dozen papers and websites. Her Fish Radio programs air on 27 stations across Alaska.

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