Salmon activist, Dr. John White, passes on

by Angela Denning-Barnes on May 16, 2013

Dr. John White, courtesy of Doug Molyneaux

Dr. John White, courtesy of Doug Molyneaux

Long-time salmon advocate and dentist, Dr. John White, passed away May 15 at the age of 66 in his Bethel home in Alligator Acres Subdivision. It appears he died of natural causes. White came to Bethel in 1973 and ran his own private dentistry practice. He quickly became an accomplished fishermen, policy leader, and salmon activist.

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White became involved in all levels of fishery management and research from the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group to becoming the Chair of the Alaska Board of Fisheries for a number of years.

Dr. John White, courtesy of the Bering Sea Fishermen's Association.

Dr. John White, courtesy of the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association.

“I know that I and many others around the State of Alaska are just better people because of John’s involvement in these things,” says Karen Gillis, Executive Director, of the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association.

The fishermen’s group was created in 1980 to give fishermen a voice in the policy making process. White worked closely with the group over the years.

“I would say he was perhaps the most defining person in Western Alaska for many years,” Gillis says, “before I think maybe people even realized how formidable his mind was, and his actions.”

Dr. John White, courtesy of Dough Molyneaux

Dr. John White, courtesy of Dough Molyneaux


Known by friends as an academic, he could talk for hours about fishery policies and the need for more comprehensive research on salmon.

Gillis says when White was chairing the state’s Board of Fish, he helped create a policy for managing salmon in a sustainable way.

“He was so keenly instrumental in the creation of the policy for the Management of Sustainable Salmon Fisheries,” Gillis says. “That policy really is as strong and as powerful as it is because of Dr. White. There were others on the Board at the time but he really was a great ring leader there.”

White also played a key role in the design of the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Sustainable Salmon Initiative, serving as chairman of its steering committee for the first 10 years. That initiative has helped fund salmon research in Western Alaska.

Dr. John White in the 1970s, courtesy of Bev Hoffman.

Dr. John White in the 1970s, courtesy of Bev Hoffman.


Over the years, Dr. John White was also known as a gardener and a birder, and once had a pet raven named Dude who learned how to smoke a pipe.

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