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Friday, June 30, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Eric Eckholm Saved Canned Salmon Industry After '81 Recall

Eric Eckholm, the man credited by many Alaskan canned-salmon-industry leaders with guiding its return to health after the devastating botulism recall of 1981, died in Seattle yesterday of cancer. He was 44.

As executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Eckholm was instrumental in guiding and building ASMI's international efforts to regain credibility and acceptance after losing an estimated $350 million caused by publicity associated with a Food and Drug Administration recall of canned salmon.

"If it were not for Eric's innovative leadership, there is some doubt in my mind whether ASMI or the Alaska canned-salmon industry would have survived," J. Richard Pace, president of Unisea Inc. told Mr. Eckholm's family.

With his seafood industry background from ASMI, Mr. Eckholm worked with food-processing specialists to develop salmon ham loaf and salmon nuggets using Alaskan pink and chum salmon.

The project, named Health Sea Inc., recently has attracted financial interest from Gold Belt Inc. and Douglas Island Pink and Chum, a nonprofit hatchery in Juneau. Health Sea recently completed a processing plant in Arlington and added a new processing line in a plant operated by the Kake Tribal Corp. in Alaska. Since 1993, Mr. Eckholm had divided his time between Juneau and Seattle.

Earlier Mr. Eckholm won numerous honors in Alaska community newspaper publishing and in founding and developing Alaska Review, a statewide television newsmagazine focused on the problems and issues of rural Alaska. He followed that up by founding a media center and internship program to educate Alaskan young people on government operations.

Mr. Eckholm's wife, Janet, a television producer, joined with him to produce several award-winning films about Alaska natives, the salmon industry and one, "Kayak," for the state museum.

Janet Eckholm denied that her husband was a workaholic but remembered, "We always said he had the `go's.' "

Longtime friend Rodger Painter remembers Mr. Eckholm for "a remarkable talent for taking the spark of a creative idea and transforming it into solid, feet-on-the-ground projects."

Mr. Eckholm was awarded an honorary degree earlier this year by the University of Alaska-Southeast and had been appointed by the Alaska Legislature to the state's public broadcasting commission, trade commission and to an Alaska seat on a National Marine Fisheries Service review panel.

Born in Coos Bay, Ore., Mr. Eckholm grew up in San Diego but attended high school in Beaverton, Ore., and earned a journalism degree from the University of Oregon before moving to Alaska to work as news director at radio station KYUK in Bethel.

He is survived by his wife, Janet, Seattle; daughter Kristin and son Conor, both of Juneau; his mother, LaReine Eckholm, and a sister, Carlene Howard, both of Olympia.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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