By Laine Welch
Denby Lloyd is retiring as Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner on Dec. 1. He informed Governor Parnell personally late Thursday and then broke the news to me.
“I planned for quite some time to retire at the end of this term, even before the DUI incident. But you can’t really announce something like that very early and still get good work done,” he said. “The timing seems right, and I also want to give time for the staff to get used to the idea, and for the constituents to decide who they might want next for commissioner.
“And to be honest, the demands of a job like this take a toll, and I don’t know if I have the drive or desire to keep up this kind of pace,” Lloyd added.
Denby Lloyd has held the commissioner’s seat since 2007. He is a 1985 UAF graduate with degrees in biology and economics. For more than 30 years he has worked in resource management in Alaska, three times within ADF&G.
He shared these thoughts about the top job as Fish and Game commissioner.
“Going to work every day, the most rewarding thing is workforce development,” he said. “We’ve got 1,700 hardworking and dedicated staff here and they are the ones who get things done. They need acknowledgement and reinforcement. We work hard on retention and recruitment issues and those are the things that really keep me going. What I’d really like to able to do is give everyone a raise.”
The toughest part of the job is dealing with attitudes, and trying to get out correct messages, Lloyd said.
“People want messages fast, and communication speed is increasing,” he said. “But the types of issues we deal with are scientific or technically based, and they really do require some time and attention. Oftentimes, issues are condensed down by the media or in political debate into convenient sound bites, that don’t do the issues justice. That is really frustrating for our staff.”
• State vs. federal management: “We need to stay vigilant in protecting the state’s prerogatives to manage fish and wildlife within and adjacent to our borders. In most cases, the state is more immediately attuned to the needs of resource users and to the resources themselves. The state can also move rapidly and more flexibly than the federal government in managing fishing seasons or hunting opportunities to assure conservation and sustained yield. The challenge internally is pursuing an aggressive and attentive course at the policy level, while maintaining close working relationships with staff in the federal agencies, so that research and management collaboration isn’t compromised.”
Lloyd said the state acknowledges the need to protect certain animals, but has resisted the “escalating imposition” of the Endangered Species Act.
“In many instances, federal listing decisions and recovery requirements have been based on very precautionary modeling parameters and extrapolations out to 50, 100, even 300 years,” Lloyd explained. “We think renewed focus needs to be applied to concepts such as imminent risk of extinction, foreseeable future and significant portions of a species range. There are a number of ways to manage the conservation of species without necessarily resorting to the heavy hand of the ESA.”
Many were opposed to Lloyd’s selection as commissioner, fearing the “game” side of ADF&G might get less attention. Lloyd said relationships have improved over the past few years.
“We have been able to strengthen and stabilize our intensive wildlife management programs, improve communications with wildlife user groups, and restructure the Division of Wildlife Conservation to better address region-specific concerns,” he said.
• Big issues facing the department? Lloyd highlighted salmon hatchery vs. wild stocks, maintaining hunter and angler access to Alaska lands, subsistence preferences vs. increasing population, habitat protection vs. resource development, predator management, adapting to climate changes, technological advances and federal encroachment.
“The single most important issue facing the department is the retention and recruitment of qualified, well-compensated staff,” Lloyd said. “I hope the various procedures, training, education opportunities and recruitment initiatives we’ve started will bear fruit.”
• Changes to ADF&G that will outlast you?
“I hope that a bit of culture change has occurred in the department that will better promote responsive and professional communications between our biologists and the public – to better assert state sovereign interests while maintaining productive relationships,” he said.
For the North Pacific Council, where he has represented the state for almost four years, Lloyd said: “I really hope emphasis on the observer program, bycatch control, and coastal communities is maintained.”
• So what’s next for Denby Lloyd?
“I’m excited and looking forward to a new chapter in life. I’m hoping to get in some relaxation, then return home to Kodiak, regain some privacy and rekindle a sense of wonder.”
Fish show and tell
Policymakers have a chance to learn firsthand about Alaska’s diverse fisheries — all gears, all regions — from Southeast to the Bering Sea. It’s part of an attempt by the United Fishermen of Alaska to teach rail-belters more about the State’s 130-year-old seafood industry. UFA is the nation’s largest fisheries trade organization with 37 member groups.
“The seafood industry has become an invisible industry,” said Arni Thomson, UFA president. “But we are the largest private sector employer in Alaska and the direct economic benefits from the industry are rather staggering. Almost $4 billion of that seafood moves through the Anchorage corridor, and thousands of jobs are related to seafood and the transportation industry.”
More than 60 percent of all seafood caught in the United States comes from Alaska. Seafood catching and processing puts more people to work in Alaska than oil and gas, mining, timber and tourism industries combined.
As part of its annual meeting, UFA has invited mayors and legislators from Anchorage, the Mat-Su, Kenai and other regions to an afternoon of “fisheries show and tell.” That’s followed by a trip to the Copper River Seafoods processing plant in Anchorage and capped off with a seafood bash. Candidates for Alaska governor and U.S. Senate also are expected at the Sept. 28, invitation-only event at the Clarion Hotel.
More than 60 coastal Alaska residents have been trained to monitor and identify toxic algae in local waters. The toxin comes from a mix of tiny marine organisms that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning in clams and some crabs.
The training program is part of the Alaska Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring Partnership at the University of Alaska/Ketchikan.
“The only way to do it realistically and affordably is to train people in these communities,” said Kate Sullivan a fisheries professor and AHAB co-founder. “So, we are trying to build capacity and understanding.”
Several regions of Alaska have some of the highest PSP levels in the world. Yet, Sullivan says there is a lack of information to address the deadly problem.
“People consume and harvest untested shellfish at a very significant rate,” Sullivan said. At one point, the Alaska Dept. of Epidemiology termed it “Alaskan Roulette.”
AHAB detectives could be the ones to solve the PSP riddle in deepwater geoduck clams. The culprit could come from toxic cysts sharing the same sediment. For more information, contact Kate Sullivan at (907)-228-4565 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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