Alaska hears opposition to fisheries board appointee who is Pebble mine employee

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Fourth-generation Bristol Bay fisherman Abe Williams also works for director of regional affairs for the Pebble Mine.

There’s trouble afoot in the most valuable wild salmon fishery in the world.

Low salmon runs, COVID and a drop in the price of fish permits, are just some of the issues that commercial fisherman are dealing with in southwest Alaska.

In the background also, is the Pebble Project, which it says has “the most significant undeveloped copper and gold resource in the world” in Bristol Bay. 6.5 billion tonnes in fact.

The mine is a political and environmental lightning rod that many fear will negatively impact salmon runs. In May, Abe Williams, a commercial fisherman who owns a company that provides services to the fishing fleet in Bristol Bay was appointed to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s appointees to the Alaska Board of Fisheries for a three-year term on the board.

Pebble mine project. PHOTO: Pebble Project

However, despite having long ties to the fishing industry, Williams also serves as regional affairs director for mine developer Pebble Limited.

ADN reported on the posting that: “Critics of Williams’ appointment say an official with the controversial Pebble prospect can’t be trusted to protect the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.”

But Dunleavy said that Williams’ broad background in commercial fishing and in leadership roles was an asset.

On Wednesday, Public Radio for the Central Kenai Peninsula reported that Senate Resources Committee held a delayed public hearing into Williams’ appointment.

At the hearing, Williams said: “When I held that position, I worked right next to the rest of my colleagues in the fishery, and whenever a conflict arose in regard to Pebble, I clearly stated that and bowed out. And again, I hold myself to the highest integrity in that regard and will continue to do so.”

Governor Mike Dunleavy. PHOTO: Twitter

In over an hour of testimony, it wasn’t enough to convince some of the public, fisherwoman Rebecca Knight said: “Certainly there are much more qualified and unconflicted individuals who could represent the fishing communities, instead of the immediate conflict upon appointment introduced by Mr. Williams’ association with the Pebble Partnership”.

The House Fisheries Committee will hear more public testimony on the appointees on Thursday.