Advocate of Alaska marine safety passes on

Alaska Sea Grant is mourning the passing of one of its early Marine Advisory agents. 

Photo of Hank Pennington. Courtesy of the Pennington family.

Hank Pennington joined the Marine Advisory Program as an agent specializing in marine safety. In 1985 he founded the nonprofit Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA). 

The association provides marine safety training for commercial fishermen, as well as subsistence and recreational boaters throughout Alaska and across the United States. AMSEA’s fishing vessel drill conductor trainings are accepted by the U.S. Coast Guard and meet the training requirements for fishermen onboard commercial fishing vessels.

Within a few years of AMSEA’s founding, commercial fishing fatalities in Alaska dropped by more than half.

Hank was instrumental in shepherding the National Fishing Vessel Safety Act through Congress, which now guides fishing safety practices across the country.  He was also a strong supporter and advocate for the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program and a dear friend to many Alaskans. 

Hank received the national William Q. Wick Visionary Career Leadership Award from Sea Grant in 1998. He was also awarded the U.S. Coast Guard meritorious public service award.

After he retired in 1997, Hank continued to participate in Alaska’s National Ocean Sciences Bowl, a high school science competition, as the official event photographer.

“It was obvious he loved spending time with the students. He was a very warm and outgoing personality—very friendly, in classic extension agent fashion,” said Sunny Rice, Petersburg-based Marine Advisory agent.

“Hundreds of people have likely seen him starring in safety videos with AMSEA. I think those of us that have worked in marine safety in Alaska look to him as our ‘founding father’ and are proud to continue his work,” Rice said.

Born in 1950, Hank was also a prolific writer. He penned numerous outdoor columns for the Kodiak Daily Mirror over many years, according to his family.

A celebration of Hank’s life will be held on August 7 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Kodiak Convention Center.