Board Profile: Walt Sonen

Walt Sonen has represented the City of Seldovia since 2012. (Photo: Shaylon Cochran)

Walt grew up outside Washington D.C. Commercial fishing ventures took him across the globe, including several years working in Japan and fishing with a family in Hokkaido. He came to the Seldovia area in 1976 and has worked primarily as a commercial fisherman since.

“I met a wonderful woman here and moved to town three years later.  We setnet in Cook Inlet until the mid-80’s, whereupon we bought a salmon troller and fished summers in southeast Alaska.  Yakutat was our home port, the boat was our home.  We enjoyed our summers out of town, being on the ocean, and the camaraderie of our fellow fishermen.  We sold the boat and “retired” in 2011.  Shortly thereafter, I was asked to fill a vacancy on the CIRCAC Board of Directors and have represented the city of Seldovia for these 10 years since.”

He is also active with the SOS Response Team, a local spill response organization.

Walt says there are two big events in his life that caused him to take a hard look at trusted institutions. One was his experience in Vietnam in 1965. The other was the wreck of the Exxon Valdez in 1989 and the struggle to coordinate response efforts afterward.

He was walking up the dock in Sitka after a fishing trip when he heard the news about the Exxon Valdez oil spill in March of 1989. That fall, he spent several weeks in “Mars Cove” in Port Dick as part of a volunteer effort to demonstrate what kind of work was actually necessary to clean up a beach. The lesson, Walt says, is “don’t spill oil.”

“I feel that the vigilance of our professional staff, our committees, and our fellow board members makes a profound difference in the awareness and continued concern for safety and the prevention of oil spills by engaging with industry and government and illuminating oil-related policy and practice.”

Thank you, Walt, for your many years of dedicated service and commitment the mission of CIRCAC.