Facilitating candidate debates on Alaska fisheries issues

9 people seated around tables on a stage
Candidates and moderators at the 2022 Alaska Fishery Debates in Kodiak, Alaska. Photo by Kirsten Dobroth/KMXT.

The 2022 Alaska Fishery Debates were held October 3–4, with Alaska Sea Grant support behind the scenes and on stage. This year’s debates drew participation by candidates vying to be Alaska’s governor, and for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

For over 30 years, Kodiak has hosted the state’s political candidate debates that solely focus on issues facing Alaska’s commercial fisheries and seafood industry. These industries are economically important to Alaska and are the state’s largest private sector employer.

The fish debates were started by the nonprofit Women’s Fishery Network (WFN), a coalition of women passionate about Alaska fisheries and public education. WFN was formed in 1986 with the goal of providing discussion, forums, and educational information about fisheries management and policy for the public.

Linda Kozak of Kodiak has been involved since the first debate in 1990. Kozak recalls, “When it began, the event was purely a gubernatorial debate put on in conjunction with Crab Fest, but has grown over the years to be much more.” Sponsorship of the event was transferred to the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce after a few years, and has continued the tradition of educating constituents ever since. 

Debate details and logistics, including careful solicitation and vetting of the candidate questions, are meticulously planned by the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce Fisheries Subcommittee. Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program agent Julie Matweyou is an active member on this working committee. She has served for over 10 years in this role to bring relevant and timely information to Kodiak and statewide fishermen through organization of the Fishery debates.

Alaska Sea Grant would like to thank Jena Lowmaster, Executive Director of the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, all subcommittee members, and Kodiak public radio station KMXT for making the 2022 fishery debates a success.