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Alaska Ocean Leadership Awards Announced


Anchorage, AK – This Saturday evening, before an audience of more than 600 guests attending the third annual Alaska Marine Gala at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage, the Alaska Ocean Leadership Awards Committee will present awards to five organizations and individuals who have made significant contributions to awareness and sustainability of the state’s marine resources.

Committee Chair Dr. Ian Dutton, “Alaska’s oceans are some of the most important and productive in the world.  Our marine environments supply us with year-round recreation, research and revenue opportunities.  Without a doubt, Alaska’s marine ecosystems are one of the most important resources in our state, our nation and the world.  Recognizing the vital importance of our oceans, these awards were created to honor the individuals and organizations that strive to understand them and are dedicated to sustaining them.” 

This year’s award winners include:

• Kurt Byers and the Alaska Sea Grant Education Services Staff will receive the award for Ocean Literacy, sponsored by the Alaska Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE Alaska).  Kurt has led the national award-winning Alaska Sea Grant Education Services team since 1988 and has applied his entrepreneurial vision to build a multifaceted communications operation that includes science writing and media relations, book publishing and marketing, and marine industry and community outreach via public events.  We are grateful to Kurt and his team for skillfully sharing knowledge about Alaska’s oceans.

Deborah Mercy will receive the Ocean Media Award for excellence in journalism that has raised public awareness of Alaska’s oceans.  Deborah has been a commercial fishermen, an Anchorage television reporter and, for the last 25 years, video producer for the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.  She has written news articles, created art work and produced photography for a number of commercial fishing news publications.  This award is sponsored by the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. 

Jan Straley of the University of Alaska Southeast will be awarded the Marine Research Award, sponsored by Dr. Clarence Pautzke and his wife Dr. Maureen McCrae.  Jan has studied the behavior and population dynamics of large whales in the North Pacific for over thirty years.  Her early research on humpbacks has provided insight why some whales linger in the colder waters of the North Pacific during the fall and winter, when most whales migrate to the warmer climates of Mexico and Hawaii.  Her research today involves interactions among large whales and human activities, primarily with fisheries.  She is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Alaska Southeast and an affiliate faculty of the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. 

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will be recognized with the Ocean Stewardship and Sustainability Award, sponsored by Mr. Jason Brune.  Since 1976, Alaska’s federally-managed fisheries have been models of sustainable, responsible fisheries management because of the strong leadership of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. In contrast to fisheries elsewhere in the US and around the world, none of the groundfish fisheries in the American Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska is overfished.  In a recent reauthorization of federal fisheries law (the Magnuson-Stevens Act), the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s method of precautionary, sustainable fishery management was used as the model that other American fishery management councils now follow.

• The late Governor Walter J. Hickel and his wife Ermalee endowed the Lifetime Achievement Award for 10 years to recognize an individual who has made exceptional contributions to the management of Alaska’s coastal and ocean resources over a period 25 years or more.  This posthumous award to Caleb Pungowiyi will be accepted by his wife, Gladys Pungowiyi.  Originally from the village of Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island, Caleb Pungowiyi spent much of his life working for Alaska Native groups and other organizations on the management and science of marine resources, including work on subsistence, Native issues, ecosystem health, climate change, and education.  He was the former President and CEO of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, President of Kawerak Inc., and helped establish the Eskimo Walrus Commission, serving as its director. Most recently, he was the Rural Liaison and Senior Advisor for Oceana, an international organization working to protect the world’s oceans.  Throughout his life, he served on boards, commissions and committees too numerous to mention.  We thank Caleb for his commitment and contributions to the integration of traditional knowledge into western science and the protection of subsistence resources and the way-of-life for Alaska’s Native people.

“The Alaska Ocean Leadership Awards provide an opportunity to recognize outstanding contributions to the sustainability of Alaska’s greatest resource—her oceans,” said Tara Riemer Jones, ASLC President and CEO.  The Alaska SeaLife Center is again most appreciative of the support provided by the sponsors of these awards and thanks the Awards Committee, Arliss Sturgulewski, Molly McCammon, Dr. Michael Castellini, Dr. Ian Dutton, Nancy Lord, Dr. Cynthia Suchman and Jason Brune for their assistance in selecting the awardees in each category.  Nominations for the 2013 awards will be advertised in December 2012.

The Alaska SeaLife Center is a private non-profit research institution and visitor attraction which generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems.  For more information regarding the Alaska Marine Gala or any other part of the Alaska SeaLife Center, please reference the Alaska SeaLife Center website at www.alaskasealife.org

Ocean Literacy Award – Kurt Byers and the Sea Grant Education Services Staff

Left to right:  Michele Frandsen, Karina Gonzales, Kurt Byers, Kathy Kurtenbach, David Christie, Carol Kaynor, Doug Schneider, Dawn Montano, David Partee, Adie Callahan, Sue Keller.


Ocean Media Award – Deborah Mercy


Marine Research Award – Jan Straley


Ocean Stewardship and Sustainability Award – North Pacific Fishery Management Council

Standing, left to right: Bill Tweit, John Henderschedt, Dan Hull, Dave Benson, Roy Hyder, Jim Balsiger, Capt. Greg Sanial, and Sam Cotten. 
Seated, left to right: Dave Hanson, Ed Dersham, Eric Olson, Duncan Fields, Denny Lassuy, and Cora Campbell.


Walter J. and Ermalee Hickel Lifetime Achievement Award – Caleb Pungowiyi



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