Groundfish Industry Icon Al Burch Dies

Al Burch, center, receiving an award from the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation in February, 2011. Photo: Margaret Bauman.

Seafood industry veteran Alvin Richard Burch, who helped develop the groundfish fisheries in Alaska and the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, died in Kodiak on Aug. 8, surrounded by family and friends. He was 86.

Burch, who was previously involved in the shrimp industry and helped found an association of shrimpers, turned to groundfish in the early 1980s when shrimp and crab fisheries were dried up, and went on to serve on state, national and international fisheries boards and committees, including 30 years on the advisory panel of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

He was the founder and executive director of the Alaska Draggers Association, now called the Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association, for nearly 40 years. He traveled extensively to work on treaties, share knowledge and promote Alaskan fish products.

“Al was a true advocate for Alaska groundfish, including wild Alaska pollock, and a steward for responsible fisheries management and community development,” Bob Desautel, president and chief executive officer of Global Seas and chairman of the board of the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP), said.

“Leaving behind a legacy of leadership and vision that will be sorely missed,” he continued, “our thoughts are with his wife Barbara, sons Keith and Bill, and the many family and friends throughout Alaska and the ‘lower 48’ who knew and loved Al.”

Burch was born in Deer Lodge, Montana on Sept. 25, 1936, and grew up hunting and fishing. He first became involved in commercial fishing in the fledging shrimp fishery in the 1950s. When shrimp and crab fisheries dried up in the early 1980s, he turned his attention to groundfish.

In addition to his wife and sons, Burch is survived by many cousins, nieces and nephews. A family spokesperson said no services were planned, but that a celebration of life would be held in Kodiak at a still undetermined date this fall.