KSTK has removed a photo used without proper permission from this story.
9/4/2021: The article has been updated to reflect an updated comment on boat length limits in Bristol Bay.
Governor Mike Dunleavy on Friday announced the appointment of a Soldotna man to fill a vacancy on the state Board of Fisheries.
The governor’s statement says Indy Walton has almost four decades of experience as a commercial fisherman, mostly in Bristol Bay, and owns a fishing lodge in the region. That gives him experience in both the commercial and sport fishing sectors, which often compete for allocations and resources.
The seat has been empty since the state legislature rejected Abe Williams from the position. The governor apparently flouted the 30-day deadline for submitting a new nominee, announcing Walton’s nomination 115 days after Williams was rejected for the seat on May 11.
Indy Walton had applied in early June — less than a month after lawmakers rejected Williams by an 18-41 vote.
United Fishermen of Alaska, a commercial fishing industry group, says it didn’t put forward any preferences for the nomination. But Executive Director Frances Leach says UFA members from Bristol Bay she’s spoken to are excited about Walton’s appointment.
“He is a commercial fisherman — has commercial fished for many years. That right there will be very beneficial to add to that board,” Leach said.
Reached on Friday afternoon, Walton said he’d found out earlier in the day he was selected and is excited to serve Alaska as a board member, but didn’t have time for an interview.
Walton works as a financial advisor with Edward Jones on the Kenai Peninsula. He owns a fishing lodge in Igiugig on the Kvichak River in Bristol Bay — Last Cast Lodge. And he’s a commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay. Two, 32-foot Bristol Bay drift net boats are registered in his name: Sniper and Turbo, state records show.
Court records show that he’s been charged with two closed waters violations in 2005 and 2012 while commercial fishing; the fines paid weren’t immediately available.
Walton’s application to the Board of Fish states that many of his family members fish commercially as well.
Walton has previously held commercial set net permits in Kodiak and Bristol Bay, records show.
Walton has repeatedly spoken out against the proposed Pebble Mine project. That was a contentious issue with Dunleavy’s previous nominee. Abe Williams’ day job made waves — he’s the director of regional affairs for the controversial Pebble Mine project.
Social media posts on December 6, 2020, indicated Walton supports scrapping the rule that limits Bristol Bay to 32-foot vessels which are some of the smallest in the commercial fleet.
“Extending the limit actually helps existing boats that are more then 6 years old the most and then to any one building a new one,” Walton wrote in a comment. “A guy could do a lot if the limit was longer. I believe it will happen some day. But I think that day is a ways off yet. Only because of the opposition to it at this time. I do support it though,” the comment continued.
Dillingham state representative Bryce Edgmon says that could be controversial when he’s up for legislative confirmation next year.
“If that’s the case, he’s going to encounter a lot of resistance from Bristol Bay — year-round residents of the Bristol Bay region,” Edgmon said Friday. “As you know, we’ve fought long and hard to keep the 32-foot limit in place. Because otherwise, local fishermen, particularly our village fishermen, would be disenfranchised and wouldn’t be able to compete.”
Walton’s December 6 comment was updated on September 3, 2021, removing the statement of support for extending boat length limits in the bay. Walton reached out to KSTK to clarify that it is not his intention to “scrap” the limit on Bristol Bay boat length.
Walton attended Lathrop High School in Fairbanks and received a degree in education from Brigham Young University in Utah. He taught in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District for five years, before starting work in the financial industry in 2002.
Walton’s first Board of Fish meeting will be in October when it meets for a work session in Anchorage to discuss salmon escapement goals and stocks of concern in Southeast and Prince William Sound.
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