Earlier this month we reported that a Southeast Alaska commercial fishing group was endorsing state Rep. Bill Thomas for another term, despite his "conflict of interest" in trying to influence state salmon fishery managers.
The suggestion of a conflict is rooted in two facts: Thomas himself is a commercial fisherman, and he holds considerable sway over the Department of Fish and Game budget as co-chair of the House Finance Committee.
The Haines Republican appears to be in quite a battle for re-election this year.
Since that initial report, Deckboss has acquired a raft of public records, including email and other documents, from Fish and Game that shed light on Thomas and his dealings with the department.
The records center on the state's management of the 2011 salmon fisheries in northern Southeast, the legislator's home region, and the rivalry between two gear groups — gillnetters and seiners.
Thomas, a gillnetter, appears to push managers for actions that would benefit the gillnetters.
As an example of the records we obtained, here is an internal memo known as a notification of legislative contact in which a Fish and Game supervisory biologist details a call from Thomas.
Thomas, according to the memo, complained that gillnetters had been restricted but not seiners.
He said he would take his concerns to the Fish and Game commissioner and the state Board of Fisheries.
He asserted he was the only commercial fisherman in the Legislature.
And he noted that he "had done a lot for ADF&G's budgets."
More instances of Thomas contacting department staff can be found in this string of documents. Note that some sections have been redacted.
The Petersburg Vessel Owners Association endorsed Thomas, but told him his in-season interactions with Fish and Game managers constituted a "conflict of interest."
and allocation issues should be addressed in the appropriate forums and through
the proper channels, allowing due process to take its course," the group said.
Deckboss has not contacted Thomas regarding this issue. But certainly he is welcome to respond.