All posts by Chris Cocoles

Peculiar Choice Added To Alaska Fisheries Board By Parnell



Alaska’s Pebble Mine opposition is feeling a little miffed right now. Word is out that Gov. Sean Parnell has named Ben Mohr as his “fisheries advisor.” A big deal? Well, if you factor in that Mohr spent six years representing the fisherman’s biggest enemy, the Pebble Mine project.

You can only assume how this news is being received in the Last Frontier:

The Anchorage Daily News/Alaska Dispatch

This is the time of year year when the governor appoints people to official positions. Parnell is delivering a couple of real doozies. In searching high and low (especially low) for a fisheries advisor, the governor landed on the six-year spokesmodel for the Pebble mine project, a guy named Ben Mohr. You know Pebble, the project that plans to build a giant poison lake at the headwaters of Alaska’s most productive salmon rivers. Mohr is definitely a guy you want making policy to ensure the health of our fisheries for the next millennium.

 In 2011, the governor appointed Mohr to the board of directors of the Alaska Humanities Forum because … well, I have no idea. Good grooming comes to mind.

 Yes, the guy who pimped Pebble and then worked as campaign manager for Ohio’s golden boy, Dan Sullivan, is now advising the governor on fisheries policy. Good thing we care so little about our fish that we’re comfortable letting political hacks manage them.

Undercurrents News 

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell’s recent selection of the next fisheries advisor is likely to leave some scratching their heads.

He appointed Ben Mohr, who worked for the Pebble Partnership and worked for years as a Pebble Partnership employee, reports Fish Radio.

“Alaskans overwhelmingly oppose the Pebble Mine, yet Parnell has done everything in his power to push this mine through the permitting process and wreak havoc on Bristol Bay’s valuable fishery,” Kay Brown, executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party, said.

Ben Mohr has been appointed by Parnell to replace Stephanie Moreland. Mohr worked six years as a spokesperson for the Pebble Partnership. He also has worked as a campaign manager for Dan Sullivan, the candidate for U.S. Senate who previously pushed for Pebble mine as DNR Commissioner.

Northern Dynasty is attempting to develop a copper, molybdenum, and gold deposit on state land despite peer-reviewed scientific studies finding that the mine would negatively impact salmon in Bristol Bay.  Local Lake and Peninsula Borough residents passed an ordinance opposing Pebble Mine, and public opinion polls show overwhelming bipartisan opposition to the project.

Ben Mohr is just the latest controversial appointment of Parnell’s.

And that’s the way it is on a Thursday in Alaska.






Kenai River Salmon Fishing Shut Down

You could see this one coming.

All the signs were dismal pointing toward the 2014 Kenai River king salmon season.  Then came the news the famed river would be closed to fishing until July 1. 

Bears will have the Kenai River salmon to themselves due to a closure to all fishing for kings. (EARL FOYTACK)

Bears will have the Kenai River salmon to themselves due to a closure to all fishing for kings. (EARL FOYTACK)


Now comes the sobering news the Kenai will be closed to all sport and commercial fishing for the remainder of the season that was scheduled to run through July 31.

Just last week, the river was limited to a first: catch-and-release only with barbless hooks due to declining return projections.

From the Peninsula Clarion:

The closure, effective Saturday, triggers a closure of commercial setnet fishing on the East Side of Cook Inlet and is meant to conserve Kenai-bound king salmon which are not currently projected to return in large enough numbers to make the escapement goal on the Kenai River.

As of July 23, the sonar estimate of king salmon passage into the Kenai River was 8,023 fish and current projections put the final escapement between 13,500 and 14,000 fish — below the river’s escapement goal range of 15,000-30,000 fish.

Daily estimates of king salmon passage into the river have remained in the low hundreds of fish — the highest passage to date was Sunday, which saw more than 1,000 fish pass the sonar. Counts have since dropped significantly.

Fish and Game sport fish division area management biologist Robert Begich said the high passage on Sunday helped bump projections upward but continued low counts kept projections lower than what is needed to make the escapement goal.

Begich said projections would have to increase dramatically for the fishery to be reopened.

“If 5,000 kings came into the river overnight, if a miracle happened, yeah we’d turn it back on,” he said. “We just want to make the goal and it’s just a day-to-day thing. It’s going to take a lot to (reopen).”



EPA’s New Proposal Limits Could Scuttle Pebble Mine Project

The Environmental Protection Agency made a new proposal that could threaten the Pebble Mine project at Bristol Bay. Opponents to the mine point to Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery, and the EPA has come to the area’s defense and opposed the project.

Opponents of the Pebble Mine have some new hope with the EPA's latest proposal. (CHRIS COCOLES)

Opponents of the Pebble Mine have some new hope with the EPA’s latest proposal. (CHRIS COCOLES)


Here’s a portion of the EPA’s latest report:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 10 is requesting public comment on a proposed  determination to restrict the use of certain waters in the Bristol Bay watershed for disposal of dredged
or fill material associated with mining the Pebble deposit, a large ore body in southwest Alaska. EPA
Region 10 is taking this step because of the high ecological and economic value of the Bristol Bay watershed and the assessed unacceptable environmental effects that would result from such mining.
This proposed determination relies on clear EPA authorities under the Clean Water Act (CWA), and is based on peer-reviewed scientific and technical information. Its scope is geographically narrow and it
does not affect other deposits or mine claim holders outside of those affiliated with the Pebble deposit.
EPA Region 10 is taking this step pursuant to Section 404(c) of the CWA and its implementing regulations at 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 231.
Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed (Figure ES-1) is an area of unparalleled ecological value, boasting salmon diversity and productivity unrivaled anywhere in North America. As a result, the region is a globally
significant resource with outstanding value. The Bristol Bay watershed provides intact, connected habitats—from headwaters to ocean—that support abundant, genetically diverse wild Pacific salmon
populations. These salmon populations, in turn, maintain the productivity of the entire ecosystem, including numerous other fish and wildlife species.


The Nushagak River is one of Bristol Bay's vital salmon spawning grounds that opponents of the Pebble Mine fear could be affected by mining. (BRIAN LULL)

The Nushagak River is one of Bristol Bay’s vital salmon spawning grounds that opponents of the Pebble Mine fear could be affected by mining. (BRIAN LULL)

The Los Angeles Times  had a report on the report:

EPA officials said they would prohibit any discharges or dredging from the planned Pebble Mine above Alaska’s pristine Bristol Bay that would result in significant destruction or alteration of salmon-bearing streams, wetlands, lakes and ponds.

Plans for mining copper, gold and molybdenum by the Pebble Limited Partnership call for an open pit operation nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon that would result in “excavation of almost unfathomable amounts of rock,” EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran told reporters.

Even the most limited version of the project studied by the federal agency would dig up enough matter “to fill one of the largest professional football stadiums more than 880 times,” McLerran said Friday. “Quality salmon habitat is at a premium, and we can ill afford to lose so much of it at the headwaters of our greatest remaining fishery.”



Blue Crab Caught In Alaska

I remember going to Baltimore a few years back – for some reason choosing this mid-Atlantic destination with a friend in the middle of torrid and humid July. Perhaps it was because my vacation window was usually open in the middle of the summer, or that we made the plans around a visit from my beloved Oakland Athletics to see them play the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.

Baltimore's famed aquarium and Inner Harbor.

Baltimore’s famed aquarium and Inner Harbor. (CHRIS COCOLES)


When my friend left to go back to Washington D.C. for a few extra days and I had a day to myself before catching an evening flight, I took the water taxi to Fells Point and had lunch at a quiet pub. I had some Maryland crab soup with some of the famous blue crabs the Chesapeake Bay region is famous for. 

But I never envisioned a blue crab like the one that was pulled out of Alaskan waters:

As seen in the Nome Nugget, crab fisherman Frank McFarland holds up a rare blue-colored red king crab that he caught in his commercial crabbing pots. Frank Kavairlook Jr. looks on. (Photo: Scott Kent, ADFG)

 Photo by Scott Kent, ADFG

From the Associated Press:

KNOM reports Frank McFarland found the blue king crab in his pot when fishing on July Fourth off Nome. The blue king crab is being kept alive at the Norton Sound Seafood Center until McFarland can have it mounted.

The rare blue king crab has become a rock star of sorts, with people showing up at the center to have their photos taken with it.

Recommended: Name that animal!

Scott Kent, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Nome, says he has no idea why the red king crab is blue, but suspects it’s just a mutation.

Kent says a blue crab “turns up once in a blue moon.”


That would make for a rather large meal in Baltimore.





Lower 48 Men Die In Tragic Accident

Rough seas 2


Many of our stories in Alaska Sporting Journal provide you with tips and experiences for do-it-yourself Alaskan adventures. While having a guide is comforting, and, in many instances, more likely  conducive to fishing or hunting success, there’s a freedom and peace of mind in doing your own research and catching that monster Chinook or bagging that Sitka deer.

But there are risks involved, even if you know the area, which two Lower 48ers apparently were when they traveled to the Petersburg area for a fishing trip.

Here are the details from WYFF in Greenville, S.C.:

Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Beth Ipsen identified the men as 45-year-old Jonathan Comfort, of Clayton, Delaware, and Kenneth Rupprecht, 58, of Tamassee. She says they had plans to spend about a week in the area.

Troopers said the men had called police for help, but were found dead hours later after a major search according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

“These two gentlemen went to a lodge to do a self-guided fishing trip,” Ipsen said. “They have done this fairly often and know the area.”

Coast Guard spokesperson Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert said Comfort and Rupprecht were in an 18-foot Lund skiff on Sumner Strait, north of the Level Islands and south of Kah Sheets Bay, when they went into the water.

They called the Petersburg Police Department shortly before 6 p.m.

“It looks like the people in the water had contacted PPD via cellphone for 45 minutes,” Eggert said. “They (said they) had (personal flotation devices), but no survival suits; the cellphone call cut out.”

The Coast Guard launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to search for the skiff, with Alaska State Troopers in both Wrangell and Petersburg alerted to assist with the search. While a full shoreline search of the area was unsuccessful as of 10 p.m., troopers found the capsized skiff and the Jayhawk crew found a cooler it had been carrying.

At about 11 p.m., Eggert says the Jayhawk’s crew reported spotting the two men in the water near the overturned skiff.

“The MH-60 directed troopers to the location of the people; each was recovered and determined to be deceased,” Eggert said. “Neither of them were wearing a life jacket with personal locator beacons when found.”

The last paragraph stands out that the men were without a flotation device. No matter how many times you’ve done such a trip as the report suggests, it’s always wise to take every possible safety precaution in a place as unforgiving as Alaska.



July 4 Marathon Madness

Happy Fourth of July all!

One of the stories we have running in this month’s Alaska Sporting Journal is something I don’t think I would even attempt: the Mount Marathon Race in Seward.

Fortunately, two of our intrepid ASJ contributors, Bixler McClure and Steve Meyer, have been among the brave souls who have done the race (McClure plans to be out there for today’s event). So we wanted to give you a little taste of what it’s like to charge up the mountain and make the even more dangerous run back down. Here’s a little of each runner’s story:

Bixler McClure (in white shirt) makes the long climb up Mount Marathon. (KRYSTIN BABLINSKAS)

Bixler McClure (in white shirt) makes the long climb up Mount Marathon. (KRYSTIN BABLINSKAS)


First up: Steve Meyer:

The starter pistol sounds, and, in cattle herd fashion, everyone starts running uphill for a half-mile to the base of the mountain. At that point, the contestants split off onto the numerous pathways up the mountain. No matter what path you choose, it’s steep! Your best strategy is to keep the head down as rocks dislodged from the runners ahead of you come bouncing down. Halfway up the course breaks out into the alpine. Not that you are in any condition or state of mind to enjoy it, but the view of Seward is magnificent.

If you’re a bit slow, runners that have already reached the top are flying past you on the descent, throwing shale and mud in every direction. The water crew waits at the top with a much-needed drink as you turn around and begin the “controlled” freefall down the slopes into the “chute” at the base of the mountain. Spectators flock to the spot cheer and sometimes witness some spectacular falls. Dripping blood from various parts of the body is normal, and there are EMS staff members standing by to patch you up or get you to the ER if necessary.

Running back down the mountain is even more treacherous than getting up it. (KRYSTIN BABLINSKAS)

Running back down the mountain is even more treacherous than getting up it. (KRYSTIN BABLINSKAS)

And here’s some of Bix’s take on this unique way to celebrate our country’s birthday:

So with all the dangers and risks, why do I run it? Sometimes I ask myself that during my training, when the midday sun beats down on me among the stifling heat in the alders. My mother, Sue, ran the race starting in the 1970s and finished pretty well. A boulder hit her in the back one race and broke her collarbone, but she finished the race anyway. There is the historical aspect of being a fifth-generation Sewardite, but there is also the freedom of knowing that this race is one of the last wild races left. Lately, the race board has been marking routes to avoid particularly bad injuries, but with each training run and each race, I still find myself bruised and sore from rocks and minor falls.

Training for the race usually begins as soon as you can get to the top, which is usually as soon as the snow recedes a bit in April. Even with an active lifestyle and running daily, I find that nothing can actually prepare you better for running “The Mountain” than actually doing it. The first couple of trips up every year are brutal, and I find myself wondering if I will ever be able to get to the top as quickly as I did the previous summer. 

You can read the rest of their stories in this month’s issue. But if you’re like me and spending this holiday leisurely walking the dog and watching the World Cup and baseball, think of the hard work the men, women and youngsters will have done pushing their bodies to the limits in this endurance race for the brave and hearty.

Enjoy your holiday!

Approaching the finish line! (KRYSTIN BABLINSKAS)

Approaching the finish line! (KRYSTIN BABLINSKAS)

Alaska State Troopers Reality Show Being Pulled

The State of Alaska has decided to not carry on with another season of the National Geographic Channel reality series Alaska State Troopers. 

From the Alaska Dispatch:



Trooper director Col. James Cockrell on Tuesday emailed Department of Public Safety employees announcing the state has decided not to participate in another season of “Alaska State Troopers,” the popular, “Cops”-style series on National Geographic, said trooper spokeswoman Beth Ipsen.

 “DPS has decided to end the production after this season after five years of filming with (production company) PSG Films,” Ipsen wrote in an email. “This decision was not reflective of PSG Films or the quality of their product. It was just time to focus on the job of providing public safety without any added outside distractions.”

 Cockrell did not rule out resuming the series “in a couple of years if there is a desire among DPS to begin another chapter.”

 The state received no money in return for allowing film crews to follow members of the statewide police force as they made arrests in cities and villages across Alaska, although the show is buoyed by state subsidies. The first season aired in 2009, arriving early in the current wave of Alaska-based reality shows.


King Salmon Anglers Can Keep One Kenai Fish




Good news for Kenai River-area anglers: for the first time in a year, starting today, you can keep a coveted king from the river.

From the Anchorage Daily News : 

King salmon returns to the Kenai have plummeted since 2009, bottoming out last year. With king salmon angling banned during the entire first run, “it’s been really quiet here,” Gease said. “It’s critical for the Peninsula economy, and when it’s closed, that’s a big hit.”

Perhaps no group was hit as hard as fishing guides. Gease estimated that five years ago about 400 fishing and sightseeing guides worked on the Kenai River. That went down to 280 after restrictions to Kenai fishing began, Gease said, and so far this year, most guides who once fished the Kenai have had to find other work — or pursue other fish in other places.

While not strong, this year’s early run lit a flicker of hope for a king turnaround on the Kenai. As of Monday, 4,585 of the prized salmon have been detected in the river, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s sonar estimate, putting the department’s minimum escapement goal of 5,300 kings within reach. The early run ends Monday night.

At the same time last year, only 1,343 kings had been counted. This year’s return was running ahead of 2012, too.


The Fight Against Farmed Salmon

(Top) The film's producer, Sara Pozonsky. (Bottom) A British Columbia fish farm.  (A FISHY TALE)

(Top) The film’s producer, Sara Pozonsky.  (A FISHY TALE)

Editor’s note: This story appears in the June issue of Alaska Sporting Journal. Alaskan Sara Pozonsky is making a documentary on the farmed salmon vs. wild salmon controversy. 


The boat speeds across the waters off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. The moment is accompanied by festive music amid a gorgeous Pacific Northwest backdrop.

Then producer Sara Pozonsky’s upcoming documentary, A Fishy Tale, changes the mood as the scene fades to black and then changes to a new location. The music is now far more sinister, the kind of score you’d be more likely to experience in a Sherlock Holmes film (in black and white with Basil Rathbone in the title role, not the modernized Robert Downey Jr. starring as the detective).

As the film evolved and the filmmakers began shooting, her attitude about the issue changed.

“Before I always thought, ‘If you choose to eat that; that’s great. I don’t care if you want to have farmed salmon; it doesn’t bother me,’” Pozonsky says. “But I realized the impact it was having environmentally and the threat it was having

Pozonsky and her boat are now drifting just outside one of several British Columbia commercial salmon farms that have triggered a debate: should wild salmon be protected from the alleged risk of farmed salmon, and which type should be served in restaurants and bought at grocery stores?

“I’m looking at the sign here and it says, ‘Restricted Area,’’’ Pozonsky says into the camera, “and I’m wondering what do they have to hide? Why can’t anyone come here and see what they are doing?”

Whether you agree with them or not, Pozonsky, director Tracie Donahue and their modest crew will at worst make you think a lot about that king fillet you ordered at your favorite seafood joint, or check the label at the fish counter when you picked out a piece of coho salmon for your summer cookout.

Is the film right? Is farmed salmon so full of dangerous pesticides and other artificial ingredients you may as well puff a cigarette instead? Are the net pens that are outlawed in Alaska but growing in numbers around British Columbia a threat to the waters’ wild salmon population for fear of a virus that all but wiped out salmon farms in South America?

As the film evolved and the filmmakers began to shoot, her attitude about the issue changed.

“Before I always thought, ‘If you choose to eat that; that’s great. I don’t care if you want to have farmed salmon; it doesn’t bother me,’” Pozonsky says. “But I realized the impact it was having environmentally and the threat it was having to wild salmon. Then I became personally offended by it, and that’s when kind of this war broke loose, and this was not going un-noticed. I needed to make people aware of what they were doing.”

“It’s not just a simple food choice here.”


Director Tracie Donahue films underwater scenes depicting the water clarity around salmon farms. (A FISHY TALE)

Director Tracie Donahue films underwater scenes depicting the water clarity around salmon farms. (A FISHY TALE)

BUT IT’S ANYTHING but a simple subject for the public to grasp. In the film, Pozonsky conducts woman-on-the-street interviews in Victoria, B.C. and asks about the potentially harmful toxins and chemicals wild salmon supporters believe are far more abundant and in farmed salmon. A woman said she was unaware of any toxins in the fish; the man she was with said as an angler he knows the farm salmon that are raised in such close proximity are more susceptible to contracting viruses from other fish.

In another spot in Victoria, a young woman suggested to Pozonsky farmed fish actually have less toxins than fish harvested from open waters. So go figure.

“I just think you need to ask questions about where your food comes from. It boils down to that. We need to be aware of what we’re eating and how that impacts everything,” she says. “We have to start demanding that our food is healthy.”

The film’s director, Tracie Donahue, also has spent time in Alaska – she went to high school in Anchorage but currently lives in the Baltimore area. Fishing and salmon were not the passion it’s always been for Pozonsky.

“I used to go fishing with my parents growing up, but I didn’t enjoy it. My parents would laugh at me because I really hated being there,” Donahue says. “I hadn’t heard about farmed fish. I never really had any feelings one way or the other about the subject until Sara started talking to me about it. The more research I did, the more I realized it was definitely a problem worth highlighting.”

Pozonsky sees the problem with fish farms that dot many of the coastal areas around Vancouver Island is they are of the open-net variety – “If they would do it on land, it would be fantastic,” she says – and skeptics say the farms are dumping dangerous material into the waters adjacent to the fish pens where the wild salmon make their runs from the sea to the rivers.

(In February, British Columbia-based Willowfield Enterprises opened a land-based sockeye salmon farm.)

“When you grow a carnivore species together like that in close proximity, they’re very aggressive fish. So (fish pens) are not natural places for them to be anyway. There are a lot of other things that you can farm that handle that a lot better. They just get sick from each other living that close together. They combat that with a lot of chemicals.”

One such complex concoction is known as SLICE, which is designed to combat chronic sea lice infestation, which if it spreads, could devastate the wild salmon population.

While Canada has welcomed such operations, they are banned in salmon-rich Alaska.

“There are a lot of other sicknesses they can get, so they’re constantly giving them antibiotics along with the hormones to make them grow faster,” Pozonsky says. “What (the farm salmon) are doing is going from small to fully grown in a year. Whenever you do that you’re genetically altering fish.”

And it is triggering outrage from wild salmon supporters.


Filming off the Canadian coast. (A FISHY TALE)

Filming off the Canadian coast. (A FISHY TALE)

THE MOVIE IDEA came up about three years ago from a conversation between Pozonsky and her friend, aspiring film- maker Donahue. Pozonsky and her sister-in-law, Trish Kopp, are the co-owners of Wild Alaskan Salmon Company, which preaches “always wild, never farmed,” in the seafood they offer customers.

“At that time, three years ago, I was explaining the frustration I was seeing with farmed fisheries and what was going on. There just seemed to be a lack of regulation and how it was killing off our wild salmon,” Pozonsky says. “So she said, ‘we should do a movie about it.’ I said I had no idea what that meant. But we went for it.”

And on they went. In an early edit of the film, among the targets Pozonsky, Donahue and crew target is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has pushed for more fish farm operations in United States’ coastal waters, including Alaska.

Pozonsky traveled to Washington to interview Congressman Don Young (R), who represents Alaska in the House of Representatives and pushed for the ban of Alaskan salmon farms; he vowed his state won’t go that route as long as he’s in office.

“It’s the wrong thing to do, and we’ve managed (wild salmon) beautifully. We took a hit when Chile started (exporting) fish to us,” Young says in the film. “Now we have a federal agency trying to promote offshore fish farms that we call open-net farms. It’ll be leased by the federal government (to private companies). NOAA is promoting this because they want to eliminate the fisherman. They would destroy a business that’s very valuable to the state of Alaska. I’m working very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“It’s basically a very typical David and Goliath story. It’s someone with no money and no resources behind them trying to fight a giant industry that has silenced people in the past,” Pozonsky adds, citing a Scot, Don Staniford, who’s fought fish farmers in his native country and lost to them in court.

Pozonsky also realizes she’s an underdog in her plight. She’s tried to raise funds to make her movie, and it’s not always easy to roust up supporters. In one scene, she attempts to picket NOAA headquarters in Washington D.C. But the only willing participant she can tote along is her Labrador retriever, Sport. But there she is, a woman and her dog, the former sporting a white t-shirt that said “MY FISH AINT FARMED,” and the latter sniffing the grass carrying around a “DON’T FEED ME FARMED FISH” sign. A few curious observers stop briefly, but keep moving despite her pleas to protest with her.

“NOAA is this agency that’s supposed to protect our oceans and make sure everything is healthy out there,” Pozonsky says. “They’re the ones pushing for fish farms in America. It totally contradicts their mission statement to protect the environment.”

Cue David moving off Goliath’s turf with plans to fight another day.


Sara Pozonsky (left) and her sister-in-law, Trish Kopp, started their own wild seafood company. (A FISHY TALE)

Sara Pozonsky (left) and her sister-in-law, Trish Kopp, started their own wild seafood company. (A FISHY TALE)

FISHING HAS DEFINED Sara Pozonsky’s life. She’s from Newhalen, a tiny Eskimo village on the north shore of Iliamna Lake near Bristol Bay’s world-class salmon spawning grounds. Her father, the late Charles Crapuchettes, was a teacher by trade but also spent summers commercially fishing Bristol Bay and the Cook Inlet (Sara spent summers helping out on the boat). Her brothers eventually captained their own commercial vessels.

“That was our life. This is who I am and I love that part of me. This is my heritage; this was my dad, and he taught me all this passion about Alaska,” she says.

After Charles died in 2004, Pozonsky wanted to do something to honor her father’s legacy as a hard-working fisherman. She was divorced and had moved to Pittsburgh, where her eventual future husband, Paul, was from. While in Pennsylvania, Sara turned the Steel City into salmon city.

“At that time I was realizing a lot of restaurants in Pittsburgh had crappy seafood. So I started working with chefs and said, ‘Hey, if you want some fish I’ll just fly it directly to you,’” Pozonsky says. “It was kind of weird; it was just me supplying the chefs in Pittsburgh with amazing Copper River king salmon. Because I knew all these fishermen in the processing plants and I’d been working with them.”

In blue-collar Pittsburgh, where a piroshki and a beer is common table fare at eateries throughout the city, some restaurants had a pipeline to fresh, wild seafood from the Pacific.

In Pozonsky’s mind, being a liaison between Pittsburgh’s restaurateurs and salmon was a way to “keep my Alaska roots connected.” But she wanted to take that a step further and sell the fish herself.

“I called my sister-in-law and said, ‘Let’s do this. It could be a really great money-maker.’ So I got her all passionate and pumped up about it.”

Kopp, who had worked at a fish processing plant, worked the business from the Alaska end while Pozonsky lived in Pittsburgh (she and her new family are now back in Alaska).

Wild Alaskan Seafood Company ( has taken a hit due to the recession, but selling wild salmon and other seafood is a labor of love for them they hope to continue to do so, with or without a significant profit. A Fishy Tale hopes to define what she grew up believing in: that eating wild fish taken straight from their natural habitat is the best culinary choice.

“The consumers really need to have awareness in where their food is coming from. I hope when they watch this film they realize not only the health risks to the salmon, but how it’s devastated peoples’ livelihood,” she says. “And that’s why farm salmon has me so ticked off. I really believe it’s the No. 1 overlooked environmental catastrophe. It’s a disaster.”

Pozonsky’s fire-and-brimstone approach to her cause strikes a chord throughout the film.

“When someone is truly passionate about something it really comes across on film, and that in itself could create a social change,” the director, Donahue says. “I decided that change needed to be the underlining message of the film. How can one person drive change and fight against such a huge business like the farmed fisheries. For Sara’s circumstance she wanted to get the message out about what is really in farmed fish and at least make a change in the process.”

A British Columbia fish farm. (A FISHY TALE)

A British Columbia fish farm. (A FISHY TALE)

THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA took on the farming vs. wild debate in May, when 60 Minutes sent correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta to British Columbia, where farm salmon business is booming, and Alaska, which made sure to keep them out of the state a quarter-century ago.

Gupta spent considerable time with B.C. fish farmer Ian Roberts, who works for the world’s largest salmon farming corporation, Marine Harvest. But Gupta also gained some perspective from wild salmon advocate Alexandra Morton, who also is one of the more compelling interview subjects in A Fishy Tale.

The 60 Minutes report seemed rather objective to the situation. But Pozonsky wasn’t buying the farming side’s argument that there is no evidence that farmed salmon are a threat on your dinner table or to the wild salmon population.

Disease was the culprit when salmon farmed in Chile died at an alarming rate five years ago. The Chilean incident is ground zero for the argument that a similar out- break in Canada or even Alaska can in theory wipe out wild salmon, which aren’t native to the waters in South America.

“The thing that stood out to me in (Gupta’s) report is, why take the risk of harming the wild salmon and the environment?” Pozonsky wrote in an email.

“The Canadians are proving they don’t have it figured out, and the wild salmon are disappearing. Blame it on whatever you want, but the reality is wild salmon were thriving before the fish farms moved in.”

Chile’s salmon died of infectious salmon anemia (ISA), and Gupta pressed lawyer Brian Wallace, who represents the Cohen Commission, a $26 million project that’s been assessing the situation, for an answer if B.C.’s open-net salmon are already showing outbreaks of ISA. Wallace struggled to come up with a response, which infuriated Pozonsky.

“It’s crazy that he doesn’t know or wouldn’t admit after so much research; it’s insane, really,” she wrote. “The Canadian government spent a fortune trying to answer that question and still can’t answer it.”

“There were no answers here from the salmon farmers; they made it sound like the injections of antibiotics and the hormones they are giving the fish was no big thing. We’re just trying to point out the obvious, or at least prove that open-net fish farms are not the answer.


“We have one of the finest salmon runs in the world; why would you take the risk?” Clem Tillion (right) asks.

“We have one of the finest salmon runs in the world; why would you take the risk?” Clem Tillion (right) asks. (A FISHY TALE)

AMONG A FISHY TALE’S final arguments were from Clem Tillion, a past chairman of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council and one of Alaska’s grand poobahs when it comes to fish. The idea that NOAA is kicking the tires on allowing B.C.-style fish farms in Alaska is puzzling to a veteran commercial fisherman like Tillion.

“We have one of the finest salmon runs in the world; why would you take the risk?” he asks. “It’s the fallout from these things that’s dangerous. (B.C. fish farms) are in little protected places, which are the last (places) you want.”

But as Donahue says in her film narration: money talks. The business of utilizing aquaculture to raise salmon, an increasing staple of the seafood diet of diners around the world, equates to dollar signs as more and more secluded coves and inlets in Canadian waters add farms. It’s more a case of what could happen than what is happening. But Pozonsky is taking the proactive approach in delivering her message.

“I think once people get more aware, they turn their attention more to fish farms, and as it becomes more prominent in America people say, ‘Hey,’ and start to stand up,” she says.

“People may say I’m overstating my case and I’m exaggerating; fine. Let it be, but let it be known that I raised the warning flag long before fish farms ever came to Alaska.”

 For more information and to see a trailer for the film, A Fishy Tale, go to its website at

What’s New At Precision Fly And Tackle

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Hot Products at Precision Fly and Tackle

Precision Fly and Tackle is a custom fly fishing and tackle shop owned and operated by disabled U.S. Veterans. With a brick-and-mortar location in Puyallup, Wash., as well as a popular online shop, Precision Fly and Tackle custom ties their flies to meet customers’ needs and has all the gear you need for a successful fishing adventure.

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“The rubber wax worms are our hot seller,” says Larry Cluster, the shop’s founder. Cluster explains that Precision Fly and Tackle’s online eBay shop ( is getting tons of orders for the rubber wax worms, which come in over 90 different colors.

Adds Cluster, “We’re getting many reports of trout and pan fish being caught on them.”

For more information on this full-service custom fly shop with over 50 years of experience creating and tying effective flies, visit

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