Alaska News

New film explores how Arctic ecosystems are affected by climate change

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-09-28 17:07
UAF scientist Chien-Lu Ping works with students on his Arctic soils field tour in 2015. (Texas Tech Public Media photo)

A new documentary film looks at how climate change is affecting Arctic ecosystems.

Between Earth and Sky-Climate Change on the Last Frontier was created by scientists.

Executive producer David Weindorf is a dean at Texas Tech. He said bringing students to the edge of ANWR to examine arctic soils was life changing for them because the remote arctic places was no longer an abstract place on a map.

“They got to see how the pipeline and mining exploration are impacting the land surface in Alaska so I started bringing students up every year,” Weindorf said.

Weindorf said Arctic soils are rich and deep with organic material, something that isn’t seen in Texas. The students studied the differences between the stunted growth of black spruce on the northern side of the slope where permafrost is prevalent.

“Whereas on the south facing slopes you typically don’t have permafrost, there’s more solar radiation there, keeps things warmer so seeing that kind of dichotomy, going around the slope, one side to the other, you can see tremendous differences in the soil profiles in Alaska, it was just dramatic to see that,” Weindorf said.

Weindorf said the scientific changes he’s observed in the arctic over the last decade are striking and the interviews he conducted with Alaska Natives and other Alaskans back up what the science reveals.

“We felt like that was a really important piece of the film, to go to Kotzebue and Shishmaref and Nome and those areas that are really on the front lines of these changes, and hear from those people and how that science is impacting and their everyday lives,” Weindorf said.

Weindorf said he wants the film to be educational for people in the Lower 48, saying the film has no other agenda than scientists documenting the truth about a changing climate.

“To let them know, ‘Hey. You’ve never been to Alaska. You’ve never been to the Toolik research station, up on the North Slope. You haven’t seen the kind of things that we’ve seen. But we can tell you things are really accelerating as far as changes that are going on up there,'” Weindorf said. “These aren’t just abstract things that we might hear about in the news. This is impacting people’s lives.”

Between Earth and Sky-Climate Change on the Last Frontier will show on Sept. 29 at the Bear Tooth Theater in Anchorage and Sept. 30 in Palmer.

Categories: Alaska News

An up-close look at an advanced cruise wastewater system

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-09-28 16:11
Adrian Daniels is the Zaandam’s environmental officer. He showed some Ketchikan residents the ship’s wastewater treatment system during a recent port stop. (KRBD photo by Leila Kheiry)

On one of Ketchikan’s rare sunny days this summer, a group of local residents gathered on the downtown cruise ship dock to board the Holland America ship Zaandam. The group had a fancy lunch on board, and then took a tour of not-so-fancy areas that most people never see: wastewater treatment, emissions filtration and garbage sorting.

After lunch, the group of Ketchikan business owners, elected officials, media and municipal employees watched a short video in one of the ship’s theaters.

“Every week on average, a cruise ship carrying 1,700 guests will produce up to 60,000 gallons of sewage,” the video’s narrator said.

It explained how much waste the floating cities produce, and what they do to manage it.

“We have an environmental officer on each of our ships, who provides environmental training and overseas shipboard compliance with environmental laws, regulations, industry standards and company policies,” the video continued.

Adrian Daniels is the Zaandam’s environmental officer. After the video, he took the tour through a door where opulence ends, and utility begins. Gone was the lush carpet, replaced with a painted metal floor. He walked up to a door with a key-card lock.

“We just going to go to the engine control room,” Daniels said. “Without stating the obvious, please don’t touch anything.”

About 95 percent of the ship’s automated systems are controlled from here, with three people minimum on watch at all times. Alexies Varon is the senior watchkeeper and is in charge of the ship’s wastewater plant.

“All the black water and gray water that comes from the cabins – is pumped by the jet pumps,” Varon said.

Blackwater is anything flushed in a toilet. Graywater is pretty much everything else – whatever goes down a sink or shower drain, for example. Varon explained that the Zenon-brand wastewater system mixes those, and treats both the same.

Alexies Varon is senior watchkeeper and runs the Zaandam’s wastewater system. (KRBD photo by Leila Kheiry)

The water is sent into a filtration system to separate solids. The liquid is sent into a bioreactor and membrane filtration system to further filter impurities. Then, there’s a final step.

“It goes also on your UV filter to kill all the germs in there,” Varon said. “And then… it goes overboard or (we) keep it in the ballast tank to pump it outside 12 miles.”

The Zaandam, with its advanced wastewater treatment system, is one of the ships the state allows to discharge continuously, including when it’s docked next to a community. A local resident asked Daniels what is discharged in port.

“We discharge permeate,” Daniels said.

And what’s permeate?

“It’s been through the reactor. It’s been sterilized. It’s like clear water,” Daniels said. “It’s tested twice a month by laboratory and we have a random unannounced sampling as well to check for the criteria within that permeate.”

Daniels said that testing looks at levels of bacteria and dissolved metals. He said they meet international, federal and state regulations for discharge. And, he said, the permeate meets standards for drinking water.

But is that enough?

“That may be the case for human drinking water standards. But they may be releasing concentrated levels of metals that are completely intolerable to baby salmon, for example,” Michelle Ridgway said. She’s a marine ecologist who grew up in Ketchikan and now lives in Juneau – two of the largest cruise ship towns along Alaska’s Inside Passage.

Ridgway also was a member of the state cruise ship science and technical panel. In that role, she examined state regulations governing cruise waste and emissions, and procedures ships use to manage it.

While the science panel as a whole signed off on the state’s cruise ship wastewater regulations as adequate for marine life, Ridgway is concerned about discharge near shore and in port, even when the water is clear.

“Water can be crystal clear and contain quite a number of chemicals,” Ridgway said. “Heavy metals, such as copper, has been one of the constituents of the wastewater that’s of particular concern for us in Alaska.”

The Zaandam’s emissions filtration system includes seawater scrubbers. (KRBD photo by Leila Kheiry)

The science panel’s report notes that the state’s criteria for copper if 3.1 parts per billion. Cruise ships like the Zaandam are subject to state testing in addition to other tests.

But, Ridgway said even a little bit of copper can harm a salmon’s sense of smell. And they use smell to find their way back to the correct stream for spawning.

“We certainly know how much we like our king salmon. I don’t know about some areas in Southeast, but in the north area, we have seen a major decline in king salmon recently,” Ridgway said.

Ridgway said other marine animals are affected by dissolved metals. Krill is one example, and that’s an important food source for many ocean creatures, including whales.

Ridgway also questions how effective the systems are at removing tiny particles such as viruses and pharmaceutical residue.

So, what should the ships do to reduce their impact? Ridgway suggests cutting back on the amount of water used, along with continuing to improve on-board treatment systems. That includes more controls on temperature and acidity of wastewater, to make sure ships aren’t adding to ocean acidification or warming waters.

Ridgway said she’s definitely not anti-cruise ship.

“I was raised in the maritime and fisheries culture of Alaska,” Ridgway said. “I love ships and shipping, and I’m thrilled that people get to come to Alaska to enjoy wild Alaska.”

But, Ridgway said the cruise industry needs to do everything it can to maintain the wild Alaska that its customers come to see.

The cruise lines, at least according to the video, seem to recognize that, as well.

“Keeping the ocean safe and clean is good for the environment,” the video started. “It’s good for global ecosystems. It’s good for plant life; it’s good for animals; it’s good for our guests; it’s good for our crews; and it’s good for business.”

Categories: Alaska News

An up-close look at an advanced cruise wastewater system

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-09-28 16:11
Adrian Daniels is the Zaandam’s environmental officer. He showed some Ketchikan residents the ship’s wastewater treatment system during a recent port stop. (KRBD photo by Leila Kheiry)

On one of Ketchikan’s rare sunny days this summer, a group of local residents gathered on the downtown cruise ship dock to board the Holland America ship Zaandam. The group had a fancy lunch on board, and then took a tour of not-so-fancy areas that most people never see: wastewater treatment, emissions filtration and garbage sorting.

After lunch, the group of Ketchikan business owners, elected officials, media and municipal employees watched a short video in one of the ship’s theaters.

“Every week on average, a cruise ship carrying 1,700 guests will produce up to 60,000 gallons of sewage,” the video’s narrator said.

It explained how much waste the floating cities produce, and what they do to manage it.

“We have an environmental officer on each of our ships, who provides environmental training and overseas shipboard compliance with environmental laws, regulations, industry standards and company policies,” the video continued.

Adrian Daniels is the Zaandam’s environmental officer. After the video, he took the tour through a door where opulence ends, and utility begins. Gone was the lush carpet, replaced with a painted metal floor. He walked up to a door with a key-card lock.

“We just going to go to the engine control room,” Daniels said. “Without stating the obvious, please don’t touch anything.”

About 95 percent of the ship’s automated systems are controlled from here, with three people minimum on watch at all times. Alexies Varon is the senior watchkeeper and is in charge of the ship’s wastewater plant.

“All the black water and gray water that comes from the cabins – is pumped by the jet pumps,” Varon said.

Blackwater is anything flushed in a toilet. Graywater is pretty much everything else – whatever goes down a sink or shower drain, for example. Varon explained that the Zenon-brand wastewater system mixes those, and treats both the same.

Alexies Varon is senior watchkeeper and runs the Zaandam’s wastewater system. (KRBD photo by Leila Kheiry)

The water is sent into a filtration system to separate solids. The liquid is sent into a bioreactor and membrane filtration system to further filter impurities. Then, there’s a final step.

“It goes also on your UV filter to kill all the germs in there,” Varon said. “And then… it goes overboard or (we) keep it in the ballast tank to pump it outside 12 miles.”

The Zaandam, with its advanced wastewater treatment system, is one of the ships the state allows to discharge continuously, including when it’s docked next to a community. A local resident asked Daniels what is discharged in port.

“We discharge permeate,” Daniels said.

And what’s permeate?

“It’s been through the reactor. It’s been sterilized. It’s like clear water,” Daniels said. “It’s tested twice a month by laboratory and we have a random unannounced sampling as well to check for the criteria within that permeate.”

Daniels said that testing looks at levels of bacteria and dissolved metals. He said they meet international, federal and state regulations for discharge. And, he said, the permeate meets standards for drinking water.

But is that enough?

“That may be the case for human drinking water standards. But they may be releasing concentrated levels of metals that are completely intolerable to baby salmon, for example,” Michelle Ridgway said. She’s a marine ecologist who grew up in Ketchikan and now lives in Juneau – two of the largest cruise ship towns along Alaska’s Inside Passage.

Ridgway also was a member of the state cruise ship science and technical panel. In that role, she examined state regulations governing cruise waste and emissions, and procedures ships use to manage it.

While the science panel as a whole signed off on the state’s cruise ship wastewater regulations as adequate for marine life, Ridgway is concerned about discharge near shore and in port, even when the water is clear.

“Water can be crystal clear and contain quite a number of chemicals,” Ridgway said. “Heavy metals, such as copper, has been one of the constituents of the wastewater that’s of particular concern for us in Alaska.”

The Zaandam’s emissions filtration system includes seawater scrubbers. (KRBD photo by Leila Kheiry)

The science panel’s report notes that the state’s criteria for copper if 3.1 parts per billion. Cruise ships like the Zaandam are subject to state testing in addition to other tests.

But, Ridgway said even a little bit of copper can harm a salmon’s sense of smell. And they use smell to find their way back to the correct stream for spawning.

“We certainly know how much we like our king salmon. I don’t know about some areas in Southeast, but in the north area, we have seen a major decline in king salmon recently,” Ridgway said.

Ridgway said other marine animals are affected by dissolved metals. Krill is one example, and that’s an important food source for many ocean creatures, including whales.

Ridgway also questions how effective the systems are at removing tiny particles such as viruses and pharmaceutical residue.

So, what should the ships do to reduce their impact? Ridgway suggests cutting back on the amount of water used, along with continuing to improve on-board treatment systems. That includes more controls on temperature and acidity of wastewater, to make sure ships aren’t adding to ocean acidification or warming waters.

Ridgway said she’s definitely not anti-cruise ship.

“I was raised in the maritime and fisheries culture of Alaska,” Ridgway said. “I love ships and shipping, and I’m thrilled that people get to come to Alaska to enjoy wild Alaska.”

But, Ridgway said the cruise industry needs to do everything it can to maintain the wild Alaska that its customers come to see.

The cruise lines, at least according to the video, seem to recognize that, as well.

“Keeping the ocean safe and clean is good for the environment,” the video started. “It’s good for global ecosystems. It’s good for plant life; it’s good for animals; it’s good for our guests; it’s good for our crews; and it’s good for business.”

Categories: Alaska News

2018 Alaska Teacher of the Year nominee: Eric Rush

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-09-28 15:59
Eric Rush is a 3rd grade teacher at Ticasuk Brown Elementary School in Fairbanks. He’s one of the finalists for the 2018 Alaska Teacher of the Year award. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

In October, the state department of education will honor the important work of teachers by selecting the next Teacher of the Year from four finalists. We’ve been bringing those teachers to the air this week. Today we’ll hear from the final candidate Eric Rush. He teaches 3rd grade at Ticasuk Brown elementary in North Pole and has been a teacher for nine years. He said he’s had many inspiring teachers in his life, but credits his wife, who is also a teacher, with encouraging him to become a teacher. Rush said even in 3rd grade, technology can be a challenging distraction, but also a terrific tool for creating interest and excitement for learning.

Listen now

RUSH: If I have kids that are reluctant readers — that don’t want to read a book — I’ll say, “Hey. Have you ever seen an interactive book?” And they’ll be engaged in that. They’ll wanna know what’s an interactive book. And I can show them an interactive library on an iPad. I mean, it’s still reading, but it’s reading in a different way, and that kinda gets them really excited about reading.

TOWNSEND: How do you think classrooms today — the students that you’re teaching in your classroom — is different, both challenges and benefits, than when you were a student?

RUSH: The teacher was my main information, you know? If I wanted to know something new, the teacher was the main focus. If I didn’t listen to the teacher, I was missing out on a lot of information. Now the information’s all out there. Information’s at our fingertips. Now we’re no longer the focus of the information. We need to guide those children, the students, to find the information, find what’s fact, what’s fiction. All those things. And I feel teachers now, shouldn’t think that we’re the main speaker. The speaker should be the students. That’s how they’re learning. It’s a shift. The teacher’s no longer the main source of information. It’s kids learning how to use the information that’s already out there.

TOWNSEND: One of the things you said was, “I don’t teach to a class. I teach to the individual.” What did you mean by that?

RUSH: So, when I think of old teaching styles or old methods, I think the teacher up in the front of the blackboard or white board, and the crowd of students sitting and waiting for whatever the teacher’s saying. And the teacher’s teaching to the class. Well, some student might be putting his head down, might be paying attention to something else, but the teacher’s still going on with the lecture, or the presentation, or the lesson. I said that I teach to the individual. I make sure I make contact with those students. Each student, checking in with them and making sure they’re understanding the content that I just showed. So I usually do that with stations, so that if I introduce content to the whole class, then I break up my students to where I can met with them in small groups. Sometimes individually, so that’s what I meant about I teach to the individual instead of just the whole class.

TOWNSEND: When you think about the future of education and teaching, what do you think it will look like?

RUSH: It’s hard to say what it will be. What I hope it won’t be is where teachers are not in the classroom. What I would love to see is every school is incorporating devices but also having enough professional development and trainings in those areas. Certain devices or programs that will work for the child so that the child can progress at their own pace because not every kid is going to be third grade-ready at the beginning of the year for me. And I know that, and I wanna make sure that I have things available for that child to not feel like they’re going to keep being behind. I want them to feel like they’re getting success. The teachers that we have here, the three other teachers, I feel like it’s the momentum starting. Just to hear a lot of their ideas, just collaborating with other teachers, the movement has started but how much will it take to make it really change and adapt? I don’t know.

TOWNSEND: And when you say the movement, the movement toward what?

RUSH: The movement towards personalized learning where kdis are working at their own pace and they are feeling successful in schools. Where they’re not feling that they don’t want to go to school. They want to go to school. Have that excitement back. And I feel like that movement’s starting and I’m excited to see. What is it going to be like in 30 years, I don’t know. But I feel like because it’s moving it’s in the right direction.

(From left to right) Kent Fielding, Eric Rush, Ben Walker and Karen Martin are the finalists for the 2018 Alaska Teacher of the Year award. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)
Categories: Alaska News

2018 Alaska Teacher of the Year nominee: Eric Rush

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-09-28 15:59
Eric Rush is a 3rd grade teacher at Ticasuk Brown Elementary School in Fairbanks. He’s one of the finalists for the 2018 Alaska Teacher of the Year award. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

In October, the state department of education will honor the important work of teachers by selecting the next Teacher of the Year from four finalists. We’ve been bringing those teachers to the air this week. Today we’ll hear from the final candidate Eric Rush. He teaches 3rd grade at Ticasuk Brown elementary in North Pole and has been a teacher for nine years. He said he’s had many inspiring teachers in his life, but credits his wife, who is also a teacher, with encouraging him to become a teacher. Rush said even in 3rd grade, technology can be a challenging distraction, but also a terrific tool for creating interest and excitement for learning.

RUSH: If I have kids that are reluctant readers — that don’t want to read a book — I’ll say, “Hey. Have you ever seen an interactive book?” And they’ll be engaged in that. They’ll wanna know what’s an interactive book. And I can show them an interactive library on an iPad. I mean, it’s still reading, but it’s reading in a different way, and that kinda gets them really excited about reading.

TOWNSEND: How do you think classrooms today — the students that you’re teaching in your classroom — is different, both challenges and benefits, than when you were a student?

RUSH: The teacher was my main information, you know? If I wanted to know something new, the teacher was the main focus. If I didn’t listen to the teacher, I was missing out on a lot of information. Now the information’s all out there. Information’s at our fingertips. Now we’re no longer the focus of the information. We need to guide those children, the students, to find the information, find what’s fact, what’s fiction. All those things. And I feel teachers now, shouldn’t think that we’re the main speaker. The speaker should be the students. That’s how they’re learning. It’s a shift. The teacher’s no longer the main source of information. It’s kids learning how to use the information that’s already out there.

TOWNSEND: One of the things you said was, “I don’t teach to a class. I teach to the individual.” What did you mean by that?

RUSH: So, when I think of old teaching styles or old methods, I think the teacher up in the front of the blackboard or white board, and the crowd of students sitting and waiting for whatever the teacher’s saying. And the teacher’s teaching to the class. Well, some student might be putting his head down, might be paying attention to something else, but the teacher’s still going on with the lecture, or the presentation, or the lesson. I said that I teach to the individual. I make sure I make contact with those students. Each student, checking in with them and making sure they’re understanding the content that I just showed. So I usually do that with stations, so that if I introduce content to the whole class, then I break up my students to where I can met with them in small groups. Sometimes individually, so that’s what I meant about I teach to the individual instead of just the whole class.

TOWNSEND: When you think about the future of education and teaching, what do you think it will look like?

RUSH: It’s hard to say what it will be. What I hope it won’t be is where teachers are not in the classroom. What I would love to see is every school is incorporating devices but also having enough professional development and trainings in those areas. Certain devices or programs that will work for the child so that the child can progress at their own pace because not every kid is going to be third grade-ready at the beginning of the year for me. And I know that, and I wanna make sure that I have things available for that child to not feel like they’re going to keep being behind. I want them to feel like they’re getting success. The teachers that we have here, the three other teachers, I feel like it’s the momentum starting. Just to hear a lot of their ideas, just collaborating with other teachers, the movement has started but how much will it take to make it really change and adapt? I don’t know.

TOWNSEND: And when you say the movement, the movement toward what?

RUSH: The movement towards personalized learning where kdis are working at their own pace and they are feeling successful in schools. Where they’re not feling that they don’t want to go to school. They want to go to school. Have that excitement back. And I feel like that movement’s starting and I’m excited to see. What is it going to be like in 30 years, I don’t know. But I feel like because it’s moving it’s in the right direction.

(From left to right) Kent Fielding, Eric Rush, Ben Walker and Karen Martin are the finalists for the 2018 Alaska Teacher of the Year award. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)
Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage police to take on Turnagain Arm traffic patrols

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-09-28 14:31

Anchorage Police Department officers plan to take over patrolling the Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm on October 1, with help from a state grant.

Listen now

The move comes after state budget cuts forced the Alaska State Troopers to close their Girdwood post in the area and scale back in the last year.

Featuring rocks on one side and water on the other, the patrol zone — from McHugh Creek to Ingram Creek — is a scenic stretch of highway and one of the most heavily trafficked and dangerous in Alaska.

“Clearly, that stretch of highway should have some law enforcement presence,” Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll said.

Doll, a former traffic sergeant, said the police department has added officers to its ranks recently, enough so that he feels comfortable the highway patrols will not take away from officers’ ability to respond to calls in the city, which has seen an uptick in crime recently.

Officers will respond to specific calls in communities along the highway under an agreement with a newly created police service area. But Doll said Anchorage police vehicles will not be looking for traffic violations on the highway around the clock.

“It’s not going to be an every second of every day type of patrol,” Doll said. “It’s going to be something that we do when they have the staffing to do that and not impact service inside the city.”

While state budget cuts have left the gap for Anchorage police to fill, it is a state grant paying for the patrols. And the $200,000 grant is only set to last one year.

After that, the question of who provides traffic enforcement in the area will again be uncertain.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage police to take on Turnagain Arm traffic patrols

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-09-28 14:31

Anchorage Police Department officers plan to take over patrolling the Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm on October 1, with help from a state grant.

The move comes after state budget cuts forced the Alaska State Troopers to close their Girdwood post in the area and scale back in the last year.

Featuring rocks on one side and water on the other, the patrol zone — from McHugh Creek to Ingram Creek — is a scenic stretch of highway and one of the most heavily trafficked and dangerous in Alaska.

“Clearly, that stretch of highway should have some law enforcement presence,” Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll said.

Doll, a former traffic sergeant, said the police department has added officers to its ranks recently, enough so that he feels comfortable the highway patrols will not take away from officers’ ability to respond to calls in the city, which has seen an uptick in crime recently.

Officers will respond to specific calls in communities along the highway under an agreement with a newly created police service area. But Doll said Anchorage police vehicles will not be looking for traffic violations on the highway around the clock.

“It’s not going to be an every second of every day type of patrol,” Doll said. “It’s going to be something that we do when they have the staffing to do that and not impact service inside the city.”

While state budget cuts have left the gap for Anchorage police to fill, it is a state grant paying for the patrols. And the $200,000 grant is only set to last one year.

After that, the question of who provides traffic enforcement in the area will again be uncertain.

Categories: Alaska News

Federal court upholds contentious ‘roadless rule’ for national forests

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-09-28 14:21
A Tongass National Forest clearcut is shown in this 2014 aerial view. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

A federal court upheld a rule limiting road construction and logging on about 50 million acres of national forestland nationwide.

Listen now

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s decision Thursday was hailed by Alaska conservation groups defending the U.S. Forest Service’s roadless rule. Meredith Trainor is the executive director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council which opposes expanded logging in the Tongass National Forest.

“It’s a huge victory,” Trainor said  “The state of Alaska has been attacking the roadless rule almost since the rule was first written back in the early 2000s. The roadless rule protects intact forested lands within the national forest system, so it obviously has a big impact on the people of Southeast Alaska and the Tongass National Forest.”

The roadless rule was put into place by the Clinton administration and has since seen numerous challenges from Alaska and other states in federal courts all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alaska Assistant Attorney General Cori Mills said the state is still reviewing whether it would appeal.

 “We are disappointed in the District Court’s ruling,” Mills said. “It upheld the 2001 roadless rule and that just has huge impacts on Southeast Alaska and the needed responsible resource development in the region.”

Alaska’s timber industry sided with the state. It said the rule denied access to some of the more valuable timber stands in the Tongass.

Categories: Alaska News

Federal court upholds contentious ‘roadless rule’ for national forests

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-09-28 14:21
A Tongass National Forest clearcut is shown in this 2014 aerial view. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

A federal court upheld a rule limiting road construction and logging on about 50 million acres of national forestland nationwide.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s decision Thursday was hailed by Alaska conservation groups defending the U.S. Forest Service’s roadless rule. Meredith Trainor is the executive director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council which opposes expanded logging in the Tongass National Forest.

“It’s a huge victory,” Trainor said  “The state of Alaska has been attacking the roadless rule almost since the rule was first written back in the early 2000s. The roadless rule protects intact forested lands within the national forest system, so it obviously has a big impact on the people of Southeast Alaska and the Tongass National Forest.”

The roadless rule was put into place by the Clinton administration and has since seen numerous challenges from Alaska and other states in federal courts all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alaska Assistant Attorney General Cori Mills said the state is still reviewing whether it would appeal.

 “We are disappointed in the District Court’s ruling,” Mills said. “It upheld the 2001 roadless rule and that just has huge impacts on Southeast Alaska and the needed responsible resource development in the region.”

Alaska’s timber industry sided with the state. It said the rule denied access to some of the more valuable timber stands in the Tongass.

Categories: Alaska News

Fish and Game looks deeper into declining Cook Inlet belugas

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-09-28 11:41
The population of beluga whales in Cook Inlet is a third of what it once was in 1970. (Photo courtesy of LGL Alaska Research Associates)

The beluga whale population in Cook Inlet has been steadily declining since the 1970s.

The number of whales in the area today is just a third of what it once was, and the Alaska Department of Fish Game wants to help belugas recover.

In order to do that, Fish and Game needs to answer other questions about mating and their habitat, and two new studies aim to do just that.

Back in the 1970s, beluga whales were common around Cook Inlet, with a count of about 1,300 in the area. Now that number is closer to 340.

Cook Inlet belugas were officially listed as endangered in 2008, and things have not gotten better.

Cook Inlet itself was listed as critical habitat in 2011.

Two new Fish and Game studies aim to find out more about where belugas feed and their social behaviors.

“Both of these studies have been based on samples and research that have been going on for ten years or more,” Fish and Game wildlife physiologist Mandy Keough said.

Keough samples teeth found in stranded belugas in order to get a better idea about their feeding habits.

“One of the reasons why both these proposals have been funded is that we are finally at a point where we have enough samples and enough collaborators with various expertise working together to be able to address these questions,” Keough said.

Fish and Game hopes both past data and new samples help find where Cook Inlet belugas have fed in the past and if feeding grounds have shifted.

Fish and Game anchored audio recording devices to track where whales are finding food.

“Looking for that acoustic signature, that whistle that they make. It’s actually a buzz that signifies that they have had a successful forage,” Keough said.

After they locate where these sounds are coming from, people can go to the sites and research further.

The second half of the project focuses on belugas in Bristol Bay.

Fish and Game thinks that population could give some insight into the mating habits for whales back in Cook Inlet.

Lori Quakenbush heads up that study and works for the Fish and Game Mammal Program.

Over in Bristol Bay, the beluga whale count is double Cook Inlet’s numbers.

More beluga whales means a larger dataset to pull information.

Using skin samples from Bristol Bay whales, researchers can see how the whales are related, giving them an idea of which whales are mating.

Quakenbush thinks belugas might have a pack mentality, almost like wolves.

“You might have 10 adult males and 10 adult females in any given years,” Quakenbush said. “It may only be one or two of them mating and reproducing as opposed to all of them.”

Quakenbush wants to use the data to inform best practices for increasing the population in Cook Inlet.

While Quakenbush hopes to come up with a strong game plan, she notes the answer may be inconvenient.

“We will investigate that large genetic dataset that we have and see what we can learn about belugas overall,” Quakenbush said. “That might affect how quickly a population like Cook Inlet can expand. It might be very different than what we’re thinking,”

So, where are the Cook Inlet whales now? The belugas mostly stay in Upper Cook Inlet.

However, there is not substantial research as to why. Keough said that is another goal of the project.

“We don’t know if that’s just because there are fewer animals available, or if they are relying on more fresh water fish than they have historically,” Keough said.

After the study, Fish and Game hopes to have more answers than questions, and that those answers will lead to more belugas in Cook Inlet.

Categories: Alaska News

Fish and Game looks deeper into declining Cook Inlet belugas

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-09-28 11:41
The population of beluga whales in Cook Inlet is a third of what it once was in 1970. (Photo courtesy of LGL Alaska Research Associates)

The beluga whale population in Cook Inlet has been steadily declining since the 1970s.

The number of whales in the area today is just a third of what it once was, and the Alaska Department of Fish Game wants to help belugas recover.

In order to do that, Fish and Game needs to answer other questions about mating and their habitat, and two new studies aim to do just that.

Back in the 1970s, beluga whales were common around Cook Inlet, with a count of about 1,300 in the area. Now that number is closer to 340.

Cook Inlet belugas were officially listed as endangered in 2008, and things have not gotten better.

Cook Inlet itself was listed as critical habitat in 2011.

Two new Fish and Game studies aim to find out more about where belugas feed and their social behaviors.

“Both of these studies have been based on samples and research that have been going on for ten years or more,” Fish and Game wildlife physiologist Mandy Keough said.

Keough samples teeth found in stranded belugas in order to get a better idea about their feeding habits.

“One of the reasons why both these proposals have been funded is that we are finally at a point where we have enough samples and enough collaborators with various expertise working together to be able to address these questions,” Keough said.

Fish and Game hopes both past data and new samples help find where Cook Inlet belugas have fed in the past and if feeding grounds have shifted.

Fish and Game anchored audio recording devices to track where whales are finding food.

“Looking for that acoustic signature, that whistle that they make. It’s actually a buzz that signifies that they have had a successful forage,” Keough said.

After they locate where these sounds are coming from, people can go to the sites and research further.

The second half of the project focuses on belugas in Bristol Bay.

Fish and Game thinks that population could give some insight into the mating habits for whales back in Cook Inlet.

Lori Quakenbush heads up that study and works for the Fish and Game Mammal Program.

Over in Bristol Bay, the beluga whale count is double Cook Inlet’s numbers.

More beluga whales means a larger dataset to pull information.

Using skin samples from Bristol Bay whales, researchers can see how the whales are related, giving them an idea of which whales are mating.

Quakenbush thinks belugas might have a pack mentality, almost like wolves.

“You might have 10 adult males and 10 adult females in any given years,” Quakenbush said. “It may only be one or two of them mating and reproducing as opposed to all of them.”

Quakenbush wants to use the data to inform best practices for increasing the population in Cook Inlet.

While Quakenbush hopes to come up with a strong game plan, she notes the answer may be inconvenient.

“We will investigate that large genetic dataset that we have and see what we can learn about belugas overall,” Quakenbush said. “That might affect how quickly a population like Cook Inlet can expand. It might be very different than what we’re thinking,”

So, where are the Cook Inlet whales now? The belugas mostly stay in Upper Cook Inlet.

However, there is not substantial research as to why. Keough said that is another goal of the project.

“We don’t know if that’s just because there are fewer animals available, or if they are relying on more fresh water fish than they have historically,” Keough said.

After the study, Fish and Game hopes to have more answers than questions, and that those answers will lead to more belugas in Cook Inlet.

Categories: Alaska News

Ask a Climatologist: How the jet stream affects Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-09-27 17:53
Banded cirrus clouds run perpendicular to the jet stream—a telltale feature photographed by an astronaut aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. (Photo courtesy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

The jet stream circles the globe from west to east affecting weather, climate and even the length of many airplane flights.

This week on Ask a Climatologist we’re answering a question from a listener who asked how the jet stream affects weather in Alaska.

Climatologist Brian Brettschneider said the jet stream is basically a ribbon of air circling the globe at high speed.

Listen now

Interview Transcript:

Brian: It’s generally the boundary between cold, polar air and much warmer mid-latitude or subtropical air. It’s always present, all year round, but it varies in intensity quite a bit and when it’s not quite as cold, in the summer months and fall months it’s in the vicinity of Alaska. In the heart of the winter, usually it’s farther south so it doesn’t really affect us that much. But it’s always there, so it’s something that’s of great interest to the weather and the climate community, to the aviation community. So a lot of people are focused on where the jet stream is, how it’s moving and what it’s going to do over the next number of days.

Annie: But in Alaska, it doesn’t affect us too much?

Brian: The jet stream does affect us here in Alaska. Particularly in the fall and the spring months, we are right at the boundary of where the cold polar air is and the much warmer air farther to the south. The jet stream moves like a ribbon, so at times it goes up and other times it goes down and it has to stay in equilibrium. Where it comes down, you actually spin up low pressure areas and those then form precipitation and have wind. We do have these large fall storms and sometimes in spring as well, those are very frequently associated with these dips in the polar jet stream as they’re situated near Alaska.

Annie: And how is climate change affecting the jet stream?

Brian: In the last few years, there’s been a fair bit of research that’s looked into this issue of what does a warming world do, what will it do to the jet stream. The strength of the jet stream is the temperature difference between the high latitude, arctic polar latitudes, and the equatorial or tropical latitudes.

In a warming world, high latitudes warm faster and that difference in temperatures is reduced which then reduces the strength of the jet stream. The jet stream in a weaker state is more susceptible to these wild gyrations. When you have this jet stream that’s more susceptible to moving around, in the lower 40 you can get paradoxically more arctic outbreaks. But then you can also get more dramatic warm ups in the winter. So, more variability and more storms are possible.

It’s something that’s an emerging area. It makes sense from a physics point of view and now researchers are trying to put that puzzle together and confirm what they think the theory indicates.

Categories: Alaska News

Ask a Climatologist: How the jet stream affects Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-09-27 17:53
Banded cirrus clouds run perpendicular to the jet stream—a telltale feature photographed by an astronaut aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. (Photo courtesy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

The jet stream circles the globe from west to east affecting weather, climate and even the length of many airplane flights.

This week on Ask a Climatologist we’re answering a question from a listener who asked how the jet stream affects weather in Alaska.

Climatologist Brian Brettschneider said the jet stream is basically a ribbon of air circling the globe at high speed.

Interview Transcript:

Brian: It’s generally the boundary between cold, polar air and much warmer mid-latitude or subtropical air. It’s always present, all year round, but it varies in intensity quite a bit and when it’s not quite as cold, in the summer months and fall months it’s in the vicinity of Alaska. In the heart of the winter, usually it’s farther south so it doesn’t really affect us that much. But it’s always there, so it’s something that’s of great interest to the weather and the climate community, to the aviation community. So a lot of people are focused on where the jet stream is, how it’s moving and what it’s going to do over the next number of days.

Annie: But in Alaska, it doesn’t affect us too much?

Brian: The jet stream does affect us here in Alaska. Particularly in the fall and the spring months, we are right at the boundary of where the cold polar air is and the much warmer air farther to the south. The jet stream moves like a ribbon, so at times it goes up and other times it goes down and it has to stay in equilibrium. Where it comes down, you actually spin up low pressure areas and those then form precipitation and have wind. We do have these large fall storms and sometimes in spring as well, those are very frequently associated with these dips in the polar jet stream as they’re situated near Alaska.

Annie: And how is climate change affecting the jet stream?

Brian: In the last few years, there’s been a fair bit of research that’s looked into this issue of what does a warming world do, what will it do to the jet stream. The strength of the jet stream is the temperature difference between the high latitude, arctic polar latitudes, and the equatorial or tropical latitudes.

In a warming world, high latitudes warm faster and that difference in temperatures is reduced which then reduces the strength of the jet stream. The jet stream in a weaker state is more susceptible to these wild gyrations. When you have this jet stream that’s more susceptible to moving around, in the lower 40 you can get paradoxically more arctic outbreaks. But then you can also get more dramatic warm ups in the winter. So, more variability and more storms are possible.

It’s something that’s an emerging area. It makes sense from a physics point of view and now researchers are trying to put that puzzle together and confirm what they think the theory indicates.

Categories: Alaska News

Japanese navy ports in Anchorage for “good-will” visit

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-09-27 16:54
Japanese naval destroyer anchored in Kachemak Bay near Homer. (Aaron Bolton, KBBI)

Two Japanese naval destroyers are in Anchorage for a “good-will” port call.

Listen now

The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force has been traveling the world since May, making port calls in South America, Canada, along the East Coast and even Pearl Harbor. About 500 sailors are on board both ships, but the six-month tour is primarily part of an effort to train 200 new cadets.

The ships were docked in Homer earlier in the week before heading toward Anchorage. Sailors toured the VA hospital and observed military exercises at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The new cadets also plan to volunteer at a local food bank and members of the naval band will perform a short concert at the Anchorage School District’s Japanese immersion program on Thursday.

Such visits from the Japanese Navy are not new, they happen every four to five years. The ships will be docked at the Port of Anchorage for three days.

Categories: Alaska News

Japanese navy ports in Anchorage for “good-will” visit

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-09-27 16:54
Japanese naval destroyer anchored in Kachemak Bay near Homer. (Aaron Bolton, KBBI)

Two Japanese naval destroyers are in Anchorage for a “good-will” port call.

Listen now

The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force has been traveling the world since May, making port calls in South America, Canada, along the East Coast and even Pearl Harbor. About 500 sailors are on board both ships, but the six-month tour is primarily part of an effort to train 200 new cadets.

The ships were docked in Homer earlier in the week before heading toward Anchorage. Sailors toured the VA hospital and observed military exercises at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The new cadets also plan to volunteer at a local food bank and members of the naval band will perform a short concert at the Anchorage School District’s Japanese immersion program on Thursday.

Such visits from the Japanese Navy are not new, they happen every four to five years. The ships will be docked at the Port of Anchorage for three days.

Categories: Alaska News

Commercial fishing for Southeast red king crab to open this fall after six years

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-09-27 16:44
The last commercial opening for red king crab in Southeast was 2011. (Photo by Alaska Department of Fish & Game)

Southeast Alaska will open to commercial fishing for red king crab this fall for the first time in six years. The crab population has seen a steady increase, according to state surveys.

Listen now

Red king crab are the largest shell fish in the state and can weigh up to 24 pounds and have a leg span of five feet. What commercial fishermen in Southeast haul in is smaller, usually around eight to nine pounds but they are still worth a lot. Red king crab brought nearly $11 a pound during the last opening in 2011. So, it’s not unheard of to bring in a hundred-dollar crab. The last fishery was worth nearly $1.9 million at the dock.

But whether the opening set for November 1 will be lucrative is still to be seen.

Joe Stratman is Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s lead crab biologist for Southeast. He said the red crab population has been on the rise since 2013.

“Basically, in the last four or five years we’ve seen improvement in legal, mature biomass estimates in Southeast,” Stratman said. “And now they’ve gotten to the level where we reached this harvestable surplus.”

Fish and Game monitors the population through annual surveys where they catch and sample crab. They also work with local fishermen on a mark and recapture project. They track two groups of king crab: the legal biomass or crab that are big enough to be harvested in the commercial fishery. And the mature biomass, which also includes crab that are sexually mature but not big enough to be landed.

Stratman said both numbers look good this year.

“These adjusted biomass estimates amount to a 40 percent increase in the legal male biomass and the 41 percent increase in mature male biomass from last season,” he said.

Stratman said that’s the largest increase in a few decades.

The state can open Southeast’s commercial season if the estimated amount of legal size, male king crab tops a harvestable surplus of at least 200,000 pounds. This year, it’s just above that. Managers will be keeping close tabs on the fishery. They are splitting the region into six fishable areas. They will open for only 24 hours, then close for four days for sampling. Then two areas will reopen for a length of time that will be decided later by managers.

59 fishermen in Southeast have permits to participate in the fishery. KFSK contacted some of them in Petersburg.

Nick Versteeg, a life long fishermen, said the opening is short but it’s better than nothing.

Craig Evens, who has been fishing in Petersburg for 40 years, said he was confused by the announcement. He said he’s not sure how it’s going to work with a 24 hour opening, then a closure and then a reopening. Still, he said he’s glad there is at least some kind of opportunity.

Several other fishermen say they aren’t happy with the opening but didn’t want to be interviewed.

The population of Southeast’s red king crab has been in flux, according to Fish and Game. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s there were commercial openings nearly every year. But then there was a decline for about 12 years. The population was dropping about seven percent annually and then it started to rebound.

Stratman said they aren’t sure why the population has changed.

“We know what we see in the survey,” Stratman said. “And we’ve seen a decrease in the early 2000s and it was fairly prolonged but now we’re seeing an increase.”

This fall’s commercial opening will allow fishing in more Southern, non-traditional areas than in previous fisheries. Stratman said managers have created Northern and Southern non-surveyed areas, with two separate harvest levels.

“Based on what we’ve heard from the fleet, I think splitting it up this way, I think it will allow for the time that they’re looking for,” Stratman said.

Fishermen can also take blue king crab in the fishery. But they are incidental catches representing only about one percent of the king crab population in Southeast.

The increased population of red crab is also allowing more liberalized bag limits for the personal use fishery outside of the Juneau area. Starting in November, the bag limit will increase from one crab a day to three or six depending on the location. But red king crab aren’t easy to get. They prefer deeper water starting around 150 feet.

Fish and Game managers are asking that fishermen comply with call-in rules during the fishery so they can track the harvest and coordinate port sampling.

Categories: Alaska News

Commercial fishing for Southeast red king crab to open this fall after six years

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-09-27 16:44
The last commercial opening for red king crab in Southeast was 2011. (Photo by Alaska Department of Fish & Game)

Southeast Alaska will open to commercial fishing for red king crab this fall for the first time in six years. The crab population has seen a steady increase, according to state surveys.

Red king crab are the largest shell fish in the state and can weigh up to 24 pounds and have a leg span of five feet. What commercial fishermen in Southeast haul in is smaller, usually around eight to nine pounds but they are still worth a lot. Red king crab brought nearly $11 a pound during the last opening in 2011. So, it’s not unheard of to bring in a hundred-dollar crab. The last fishery was worth nearly $1.9 million at the dock.

But whether the opening set for November 1 will be lucrative is still to be seen.

Joe Stratman is Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s lead crab biologist for Southeast. He said the red crab population has been on the rise since 2013.

“Basically, in the last four or five years we’ve seen improvement in legal, mature biomass estimates in Southeast,” Stratman said. “And now they’ve gotten to the level where we reached this harvestable surplus.”

Fish and Game monitors the population through annual surveys where they catch and sample crab. They also work with local fishermen on a mark and recapture project. They track two groups of king crab: the legal biomass or crab that are big enough to be harvested in the commercial fishery. And the mature biomass, which also includes crab that are sexually mature but not big enough to be landed.

Stratman said both numbers look good this year.

“These adjusted biomass estimates amount to a 40 percent increase in the legal male biomass and the 41 percent increase in mature male biomass from last season,” he said.

Stratman said that’s the largest increase in a few decades.

The state can open Southeast’s commercial season if the estimated amount of legal size, male king crab tops a harvestable surplus of at least 200,000 pounds. This year, it’s just above that. Managers will be keeping close tabs on the fishery. They are splitting the region into six fishable areas. They will open for only 24 hours, then close for four days for sampling. Then two areas will reopen for a length of time that will be decided later by managers.

59 fishermen in Southeast have permits to participate in the fishery. KFSK contacted some of them in Petersburg.

Nick Versteeg, a life long fishermen, said the opening is short but it’s better than nothing.

Craig Evens, who has been fishing in Petersburg for 40 years, said he was confused by the announcement. He said he’s not sure how it’s going to work with a 24 hour opening, then a closure and then a reopening. Still, he said he’s glad there is at least some kind of opportunity.

Several other fishermen say they aren’t happy with the opening but didn’t want to be interviewed.

The population of Southeast’s red king crab has been in flux, according to Fish and Game. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s there were commercial openings nearly every year. But then there was a decline for about 12 years. The population was dropping about seven percent annually and then it started to rebound.

Stratman said they aren’t sure why the population has changed.

“We know what we see in the survey,” Stratman said. “And we’ve seen a decrease in the early 2000s and it was fairly prolonged but now we’re seeing an increase.”

This fall’s commercial opening will allow fishing in more Southern, non-traditional areas than in previous fisheries. Stratman said managers have created Northern and Southern non-surveyed areas, with two separate harvest levels.

“Based on what we’ve heard from the fleet, I think splitting it up this way, I think it will allow for the time that they’re looking for,” Stratman said.

Fishermen can also take blue king crab in the fishery. But they are incidental catches representing only about one percent of the king crab population in Southeast.

The increased population of red crab is also allowing more liberalized bag limits for the personal use fishery outside of the Juneau area. Starting in November, the bag limit will increase from one crab a day to three or six depending on the location. But red king crab aren’t easy to get. They prefer deeper water starting around 150 feet.

Fish and Game managers are asking that fishermen comply with call-in rules during the fishery so they can track the harvest and coordinate port sampling.

Categories: Alaska News

Sport fishing for king salmon to reopen in Southeast, except near Haines and Skagway

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-09-27 16:15
The Chilkat River as seen from Mount Ripinsky in summer of 2017. (Photo by Emily Files, KHNS – Haines)

Restrictions on king salmon sport fishing will be lifted soon for most of Southeast, except Haines and Skagway. Sport fishing for king salmon in the region has been nearly non-existent for the last few months. Concerns over alarmingly low numbers prompted the shutdown of king salmon retention for sport and commercial fishermen in August. Conservation worries are still affecting Northern Southeast Alaska.

Listen now

Starting Oct. 1, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is reopening sport fishing for king salmon in most of Southeast Alaska.

That means fishermen will soon be able to keep the fish they catch. For the last few months, they’ve had to return them to the water unharmed.

In the Upper Lynn Canal, that’s been the case all summer.

Rich Chapell is an area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Haines. He says reopening the king salmon sport fishery shouldn’t harm important fish populations.

“Less than 5 percent of the annual sport harvest of king salmon happens after Sept. and through March,” Chapell said. “So, we’re just returning to regional regulations based on the abundance index under the Pacific Salmon Treaty. And we just anticipate very few king salmon are going to be harvested during this winter fishery period.”

After last season, nine out of 11 king salmon systems in Southeast didn’t meet escapement goals.

In initial escapement surveys taken in August, the department found production and productivity of kings was lower than anticipated.

That prompted Fish and Game’s unusual decision to shut down commercial and sport fishing for king salmon throughout Southeast.

In the Haines and Skagway area, Chapell said those restrictions will stay in effect.

“Chilkat Kings are a little bit different than other Southeast king salmon stocks, like the Taku River,” Chapell said. “Because Chilkat kings mainly stay in the inside waters of Northern Lynn Canal during winter. Most of them don’t go out to the Pacific Ocean to rear. So because of that concentration of Chilkat Kings and because of the very low abundance of Chilkat kings we’ve seen in recent years, we’re just being extra conservative here.”

Looking ahead to 2018, Chapell said he expects restrictions to return to sport fisheries in Southeast.

“Based on the extremely low returns to Southeast Alaska King Salmon spawning areas, I expect the abundance index to be quite a bit lower and fishing regulations should be quite a bit more restrictive in all of Southeast Alaska next year,” Chapell said.

But for now, starting Oct. 1, sport fishermen outside of the Upper Lynn Canal can try to harvest kings again. The resident bag and possession limit is two king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length. For non-residents it’s one king salmon, with a limit of three per year.

Categories: Alaska News

Sport fishing for king salmon to reopen in Southeast, except near Haines and Skagway

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-09-27 16:15
The Chilkat River as seen from Mount Ripinsky in summer of 2017. (Photo by Emily Files, KHNS – Haines)

Restrictions on king salmon sport fishing will be lifted soon for most of Southeast, except Haines and Skagway. Sport fishing for king salmon in the region has been nearly non-existent for the last few months. Concerns over alarmingly low numbers prompted the shutdown of king salmon retention for sport and commercial fishermen in August. Conservation worries are still affecting Northern Southeast Alaska.

Starting Oct. 1, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is reopening sport fishing for king salmon in most of Southeast Alaska.

That means fishermen will soon be able to keep the fish they catch. For the last few months, they’ve had to return them to the water unharmed.

In the Upper Lynn Canal, that’s been the case all summer.

Rich Chapell is an area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Haines. He says reopening the king salmon sport fishery shouldn’t harm important fish populations.

“Less than 5 percent of the annual sport harvest of king salmon happens after Sept. and through March,” Chapell said. “So, we’re just returning to regional regulations based on the abundance index under the Pacific Salmon Treaty. And we just anticipate very few king salmon are going to be harvested during this winter fishery period.”

After last season, nine out of 11 king salmon systems in Southeast didn’t meet escapement goals.

In initial escapement surveys taken in August, the department found production and productivity of kings was lower than anticipated.

That prompted Fish and Game’s unusual decision to shut down commercial and sport fishing for king salmon throughout Southeast.

In the Haines and Skagway area, Chapell said those restrictions will stay in effect.

“Chilkat Kings are a little bit different than other Southeast king salmon stocks, like the Taku River,” Chapell said. “Because Chilkat kings mainly stay in the inside waters of Northern Lynn Canal during winter. Most of them don’t go out to the Pacific Ocean to rear. So because of that concentration of Chilkat Kings and because of the very low abundance of Chilkat kings we’ve seen in recent years, we’re just being extra conservative here.”

Looking ahead to 2018, Chapell said he expects restrictions to return to sport fisheries in Southeast.

“Based on the extremely low returns to Southeast Alaska King Salmon spawning areas, I expect the abundance index to be quite a bit lower and fishing regulations should be quite a bit more restrictive in all of Southeast Alaska next year,” Chapell said.

But for now, starting Oct. 1, sport fishermen outside of the Upper Lynn Canal can try to harvest kings again. The resident bag and possession limit is two king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length. For non-residents it’s one king salmon, with a limit of three per year.

Categories: Alaska News

Enviros sound the alarm on ANWR

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-09-27 16:11
A pond on ANWR coastal plain. The fate of the plain, also called the 1002 area, has been in dispute for 40 years. (Photo: USFWS)

Environmentalists are warning that the Republican plan to cut taxes could include a move that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

Listen now

A draft of the Senate budget plan for 2018 is likely to emerge next week. No one expects the document to mention the Arctic Refuge by name. Lydia Weiss of The Wilderness Society said she’s concerned it will include vague instructions to the Senate Energy Committee to find a billion dollars or more in revenues.

“There is no doubt that that is an invitation to Sen. Murkowski to attach an Arctic Refuge drilling rider,” Weiss told reporters Wednesday.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski chairs the energy committee. Opening the refuge to drilling is a top priority for her, as it’s been for Alaska’s congressional delegation for 40 years.

Neither her office nor Sen. Dan Sullivan’s answered questions about the strategy Wednesday. Murkowski had little to say about it, according to reporters who caught up with her.

“I have heard rumors from many of you, but I have not heard that anything has been confirmed,” Murkowski says on ANWR in Senate FY18 budget.

— Jeremy Dillon (@jeremydillonCQ) September 27, 2017

Weiss and other environmentalists say ANWR doesn’t belong in the budget.

“Drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge is wildly unpopular, and always has been across the Lower 48,” Weiss said. “This is America’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It is public, federal land. It belongs to all of us.”

But ANWR could hold a lot of oil, and the idea of exploring it has a lot of support in Alaska.

The Trump administration has revived hopes for development. The Interior Department is trying to allow 3-D seismic work on the coastal plain.

If ANWR is included in the 2018 budget reconciliation package, it would only need 50 votes to pass in the Senate, because that kind of bill can’t be filibustered.

Several Republican senators oppose ANWR drilling, along with nearly all the Democrats, so passage is not assured.

Categories: Alaska News

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