New ASMI Executive Director

On the heels of much success overseeing the agency’s overseas marketing efforts, Alexa Tonkovich has been promoted to executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Her appointment was announced this past week by ASMI board chairman Barry Collier, president and chief executive officer of Peter Pan Seafoods, during ASMI”s All Hands meeting in Anchorage.
Tonkovich, who majored in East Asian studies at Colgate University, joined ASMI six years ago. She served as ASMI’s Asia and emerging markets manager before being named international program director two years ago.
Former executive director Ray Ruitta, who returned to his post on an interim basis this summer, has now retired anew. Ruitta had retired previously when retired Coast Guard officer and marine affairs consultant Michael Cerne was hired as executive director.
When Cerne left abruptly in July, Ruitta agreed to return until a new executive director was appointed.
Tonkovich, who grew up in Juneau, said she is very excited to be leading ASMI, but acknowledged there are many challenges ahead, the biggest one being the Alaska state budget, which has been hard hit by a drop in oil prices. ASMI’s multi-million budget includes funding from industry and state entities, plus matching federal funds.
“We will market our great seafood… and we will have to get creative about that,” Tonkovich said. “Every challenge has an opportunity in it.”
Early on during the Hands On meeting, Ruitta encouraged each of ASMI’s committees to start with a blank sheet of paper and identify the most important activities to budget.
“Relatively speaking, next year we’re okay,” he said. “But we need to plan ahead. This is the meeting where we begin,” he said.

Budget issues notwithstanding, Ruitta said he was optimistic, noting expansion of domestic markets for Alaska seafood, as well as new markets in Brazil. “Telling the Alaska story is important,” he said. “And product forms will change to meet market demands. We are facing some real challenges, but look at this as an opportunity to reinvent ourselves if necessary,” he said.