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Board petitions due for Feb. 17, 2024 election

It's your chance to contribute your time to build strong fisheries in Cook Inlet. Learn how to submit a petition to become an Inlet Wide member of the CIAA Board of Directors

by | October 19, 2023

In 1976, a new fishermen’s organization emerged in Cook Inlet to enhance salmon fisheries and bring more stability to the commercial fishery markets. Since its incorporation, the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association (CIAA) has operated hatcheries, collected data, and improved habitat for wild salmon that return to spawn in the area. This fall, CIAA seeks to fill three Inlet Wide openings on its board of directors.

The makeup of the fishermen representatives has evolved over the years, but one of the early decisions CIAA made was to ensure representation from all the Area H salmon permit holders by creating five Inlet Wide Commercial Fishermen seats. 

Steve Vanek, an early member of the CIAA Board of Directors
CIAA board member Steve Vanek at Kenai’s Industry Appreciation Day. Lisa Ka’aihue, CIAA

Early CIAA Board of Directors

CIAA established its first regular board of directors in 1978. The board included 15 commercial fishermen and five user group representatives. The user group members were intended to include sport, subsistence, and other conservation and community organizations. The original membership was composed of:

  • Commercial Fishermen of Cook’s Inlet
  • Cook Inlet Fishermen’s Association
  • Cook Inlet Fisherman’s Fund
  • Cook Inlet Region, Inc.
  • Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (which later become Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association)
  • North Pacific Fisheries Association
  • Kenai Peninsula Community College
  • Kenai Peninsula Conservation Society
  • Izaak Walton League
  • Ninilchik Village Council
  • Salamatof Seafoods

We still have one of those original board members: Steve Vanek. He is the longest-serving member of the CIAA board of directors, originally representing the Ninilchik Village Council and now the Cook Inlet Fisherman’s Fund.

Inlet Wide board members: A rich history

By the early 1980s, the CIAA board recognized a need to open up commercial fishermen representation more broadly than just having seats for specific commercial fishing organizations. This was because not all Cook Inlet salmon commercial fishermen joined one of the original charter commercial fishermen organizations. Thus, the board approved five “Inlet Wide Commercial Fishermen” seats. 

The Inlet Wide Commercial Fishermen Seats are open to any current Area H salmon permit holders. Area H refers to the Cook Inlet commercial fisheries management area, as managed by the State of Alaska, Department of Fish and Game. 

Area H permit holders have elected these Inlet Wide seats beginning in June 1982, when the following fishermen joined the board: Jim Geisler, Roy “Spike” Hoyt, Daniel Huey, Dave Martin, and Drew Sparlin. 

We still have one of those original Inlet Wide representatives on the board, Dave Martin, who holds the other Cook Inlet Fisherman’s Fund seat alongside Steve Vanek. Combined, they have 85 years of service and have been among the most dedicated advocates for Cook Inlet salmon fisheries and aquaculture. 

What to know about Inlet Wide board membership

If you would like to nominate yourself (or encourage another Area H fisherman to consider it) to an Inlet Wide Seat, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Each Inlet Wide representative serves a term of three years. 
  • A nomination process begins a few months before seats expire at an annual board meeting held in February.  
  • During the nomination process, notices go out to all Area H commercial salmon permit holders to invite them to consider filling out a nominating petition and send it back to us. 
  • Each nominee is expected to designate an alternate and include that person’s name on the petition.
  • If we receive more petitions than the number of vacant seats in any year, we proceed with an election process. Each nominee and their alternate run as a team. 
  • During the election, CIAA sends out information on the nominated teams along with election ballots to all the current permit holders, and ask them to send the ballots back to us by a deadline. 
  • The candidates with the most votes take their seats as new board members at the February annual meeting.
  • If CIAA receives fewer petitions than the number of vacant seats in any year, the board of directors may appoint a board member and his or her alternate to fill an open Inlet Wide seat. 

The current CIAA Board of Directors

As organizations came and went, CIAA remained flexible to reflect the current interests of the Cook Inlet commercial salmon fleet as well as organizational and user group representation. Although the Inlet Wide seats are elected, all the other CIAA seats are appointed by the organization they represent. 

Currently, the membership includes six commercial fishing organizations with two seats each and five Inlet Wide representatives for a total of 17 commercial fishermen seats. There are three fish processor representative seats, and seven other user groups including local governments, regional governments, and a Native organization for a total of 27 seats on the CIAA board of directors. Individuals in these seats often represent a variety of users including sport, commercial, personal use, and subsistence interests. 

Despite the large number of directors on the CIAA board, the members work well together in support of the mission of providing and protecting the salmon resource of the Cook Inlet and Kenai Peninsula so there will be enough for all. 

How to run for board election

If you are currently an Area H Salmon permit holder, then please consider applying for one of the vacant Inlet Wide Commercial Fishermen seats.

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