Karena Adler, who charted a pioneering path for women in the ownership ranks of the North Pacific fishing industry, died Jan. 1 after a protracted illness. She was 62.

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Karena Adler, who charted a pioneering path for women in the ownership ranks of the North Pacific fishing industry, died Jan. 1 after a protracted illness. She was 62.

Ms. Adler’s death was confirmed this week by an official of Fishing Company of Alaska, the company that she founded and currently operates four factory trawlers that work in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.

The company did not provide further information about her death, and said funeral arrangements were private. The Seattle Times has been unable to reach family members for comment.

Ms. Adler was recalled by a former associate as an energetic owner who in her earlier years in the industry was outgoing and relished spending time with the crew that worked aboard the factory ships.

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Over time, she emerged as a more enigmatic and solitary figure as she moved from Seward, Alaska, where she founded her company, to the Seattle area. At the time of her death, she resided on Mercer Island.

“She became extremely reclusive. She rarely went out in public or to meetings and conducted her business over the phone,” said Mike Szymanski, a former Fishing Company of Alaska government-affairs representative who has known Ms. Adler for more than 20 years.

Alder could be generous with charitable gifts, but typically offered them anonymously, according to Szymanski.

Szymanski recalled one holiday season when, after hearing a radio plea to help out underprivileged youth, Ms. Adler told her staff to go out and spend thousands of dollars to fill up a van with wrapped gifts.

“That’s an aspect of her that few people knew,” he said.

Ms. Adler’s company was scarred by high-seas tragedies that included the March 2008 sinking of the Alaska Ranger in the Bering Sea, which killed the skipper and four other members of the 47-person crew. A Coast Guard investigation concluded the vessel most likely went down due to a poorly maintained hull.

During the lengthy Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation, Ms. Adler did not make public statements. Szymanski, who worked for the company at that time, said the deaths weighed on her.

“She took personally the loss of any crew member,” Szymanski said. “She always put her crew members at the top of the list of her priorities.”

Ms. Adler was originally from New Jersey, and married Masashi Yamada, a Japanese businessman, in November 1980. They divorced four years later.

Japan has been a major market for Fishing Company of Alaska products. Over the years, the company’s use of Japanese fishmasters on board the vessels has been controversial as some U.S. skippers reported clashing with them over decision-making.

It is unclear how death of the owner will impact the company.

“A lot of people in the fishing industry are wondering who is going to be the new face of Fishing Company of Alaska,’ Szymanski said.

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