The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is a prized spot for anyone interested in setting policy for Alaska marine fisheries. There are only 11 voting seats, seven from Alaska. So, when the Governor and then Commerce Secretary appointed John Jensen, he was pretty excited.
“I’m really, really happy to get appointed, it’s really a big honor to me,” Jensen said.
Jensen runs a boat rental business in Petersburg but he’s no stranger to fisheries or politics. The 67-year-old fished commercially for decades and comes from a family of fishermen. His grandfather moved to Petersburg from Norway to fish. His uncle Gordon Jensen served on the federal council and the Alaska Board of Fish.
Jensen also has been part of the Board of Fish for 16 years. The state board and the federal council work closely together, co-managing some species.
Jensen says he’ll be able to do both jobs because the meetings are timed differently. But that’s not the only difference. Jensen says the process with the federal council will be a lot slower.
“It’s way different than the Board of Fish,” Jensen said. “You have to learn a whole new language. But I’m looking forward to it.”
Jensen’s two main priorities to bring to the council deal with sustainability of the commercial fishing industry. He says he wants resource opportunity for coastal communities and entry level opportunities for young fishermen.
“You want to provide a sustainable opportunity for people coast-wide to participate in the fisheries too so the villages and towns continue to stay stable, which seems to be a big problem nowadays,” he said. “A lot of the coastal communities are shrinking.”
The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council makes recommendations to the National Marine Fisheries Service, who approves and enforces them. The council meets five times a year for about seven days each. Jensen’s term is for three years. He says he believes in the council process because it’s a public process.
“That’s the key is the public has a chance to weigh in on all the different decisions,” Jensen said.
Still, he says there is always room for improvement.
“All the management schemes change based on the people involved and new science,” Jensen said. “There’s always something moving one way or the other that brings new light to some of the ideas and some of the problems.”
Jensen knows he has a lot of work ahead of him and that will include a lot of paperwork. The last Board of Fish meeting in Sitka had over 4,000 pages of information to go through. And the federal council will require even more dedication.
“It’s not a pleasant job all the time,” he said. “You get chewed out from every user group and the public a lot but it’s a job that has to be done.”
He’s looking forward to the challenge.
Another Alaskan, Andy Mezirow of Seward, was reappointed to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
Christa Svensson was appointed to the council for Oregon. She grew up in Petersburg and Kake, fishing on her family’s boat.