Alaska lost a tireless public servant and one of its strongest advocates for sustainable management of fisheries with the passing of Dr. John R. White, 66, in Bethel on May 15. Among the many fisheries management and research bodies on which Dr. White served the State as a volunteer were the Board of Fisheries, the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, the North Pacific Research Board, the Lower Kuskowim Fish and Game Advisory Committee, and the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Sustainable Salmon Initiative Steering Committee. Dr. White served on the Alaska Board of Fisheries from 1995-2002, he was chairman from 1997-1999. He was the guiding force behind the Board's adoption of the Sustainable Salmon Policy, which cemented Alaska's position as a world leader in the management of commercial fisheries, and paved the way for Alaska's salmon to be internationally recognized as a sustainable seafood product. At the North Pacific Research Board, John was an advocate for salmon research and long term monitoring of the marine environment. John's leadership in the Sustainable Salmon Initiative was instrumental in producing the first comprehensive study of salmon biology and management for the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region, ultimately resulting in the book Pacific Salmon: Ecology and Management of Western Alaska's Populations.
Dr. White's interest in fishery management was born from the culture and people of Bethel. He arrived in Bethel in 1973, shortly after graduating from the Northwestern University Dental School in Chicago, to begin his dental practice. However his life-long passion surrounding fisheries policy started as a subsistence and commercial salmon fisherman in Bethel. Dr. White loved the town and its people and he was a prominent member of the community not only as a health care provider, but especially through his work in fisheries policy. To foster communication amongst policy makers and the diverse communities and cultures of the lower Kuskokwim River, Dr. White helped found the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group, an organization that sponsored research on fishery management with the support of the Bering Sea Fisherman's Association, which Dr. White also served.
John White was a fierce intellectual with an endearing untamed nature that earned him the moniker "Executive Fun Hog". His family and friends were awed by his ability to discuss in minute detail his many pursuits (fishing, gardening, bird-watching, cooking) in one breath, and then pull a handbrake in a car moving 40 mph in the next. John is survived by his dearest friends; his nephews Patrick and Kristopher White; his partner Elizabeth Taguchi of Bethel, and her children Munemitsu, Miya and Kiomi.
Published in Alaska Dispatch News from June 23 to June 24, 2013