Board of Fisheries confirmation expected to be whale of a fight

There are plenty of contentious issues to get through before the Legislature is expected to gavel out April 15. Oil taxes, for one. A bill that would facilitate building a bullet line to run gas from the North Slope to Southcentral Alaska. A plan to begin the work to truck natural gas from the North Slope to Fairbanks. There’s Medicaid and abortion. There’s school choice and guns.

And then there’s the whale of politics: fish politics. On Monday beginning at 10:30 a.m., such politics will come to a head in a joint session, where both bodies will vote on Gov. Parnell’s choice to re-nominate Board of Fisheries members Vince Webster. The fight, which will pit the politically active sports fishermen against the big monied commercial guys, is expected to be brutal.

The powerful Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) put out an alert to urge members to contact their reps to vote against the nomination. Read the full letter here. In short, the association accuses Webster of favoring commercial interest at the expense of the sports fisheries.

Parnell’s prepping for a fight. His chief of staff, Mike Nizich, sent an email out to legislators (printed in full below) urging legislators to vote for Webster and questioning the veracity of KRSA’s claims.

It’s a risky move and Parnell is not one to take risks. We’ll see if it pays off.

Here’s the email Nizich sent to legislators:

I am aware of efforts to unfairly characterize Vince Webster’s actions as a Board of Fisheries member, including the following claims:

  • he is supposedly singlehandedly responsible for the new late-run Kenai River Chinook salmon escapement goal;
  • he allegedly reframed the Board’s late-run Kenai River Chinook salmon management plan agenda item to benefit setnetters at the expense of all other user groups and escapement;
  • he allegedly drives a personal agenda through unseemly means, including allegations related to specific fisheries.

These are misleading, incomplete, and in some cases, inaccurate statements about Vince Webster’s work on the Board. Indeed, the Governor never would have re-appointed him had if he believed such allegations were true. These claims are now being made by some in the eleventh hour to influence your vote.

Before voting “no” to Vince Webster’s reconfirmation, we ask you provide Vince the courtesy of a phone call to hear his response to recent allegations. Vince will make himself available to legislators to discuss his 6-year record on the Board. Although Vince is traveling out-of-state with his son, he is available to talk with you at (redacted).

Vince’s broad understanding of fisheries issues statewide, experience with Board process, and respect for public input are assets to the Board. Vince has been confirmed twice to serve two 3-year terms on the Board; this is a third appointment. Members are appointed with a view to providing diversity of interest and points of view in the membership (AS 16.05.221). His confirmation should not be blocked due to misinformation.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


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