Category Archives: Featured Content

Trump Administration Seeking Controversial Hunting Regulations Changes On Alaska Public Land (Update)

Update: Here’s the full statement from ADFG:

Commissioner Sam Cotten today welcomed announcement of the National Park Service’s proposed amendments to its 2015 Final Rule for Hunting and Trapping in National Preserves in Alaska. The proposed changes would remove regulatory provisions issued in October 2015 that significantly expanded authority given to the National Park Service by Congress for fish and wildlife management in Alaska’s national preserves.

“The new proposed regulations acknowledge that the State of Alaska has the primary authority to manage wildlife throughout Alaska,” said Cotten. “State of Alaska and Park Service policies were consistent for decades; no conservation concern or scientific basis existed to justify the 2015 changes.”

Social media posts and media reports have begun to cloud the issue with claims that the proposed changes will open the door for state predator control programs on Park Service lands. To be clear, the state does not conduct predator control in national preserves, and wildlife harvests under general hunting regulations aren’t part of predator control programs. The state would be allowed to conduct predator control in preserves only with Park Service authorization.

The state’s goal, as primary wildlife manager on all lands within its borders, will be to continue maintaining healthy and sustainable wildlife populations, both predators and prey. This is consistent with the state constitution and Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act provisions that maintain the historical authorities of the state to manage fish and wildlife.

“We look forward to working with our federal partners to maintain a cooperative relationship,” Cotten said. “We encourage Alaskans to review and offer their comments on the Park Service’s proposed changes.”

 

Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS

The Trump Administration announced its intentions to alter bear and other predator hunting regulations on Alaska federal land.  Here’s the full release from the Department of the Interior:

The summary of that report:

On October 23, 2015, the National Park Service (NPS) published a final rule (Final Rule) to amend its regulations for sport hunting and trapping in national preserves in Alaska (80 FR
64325). The Final Rule codified prohibitions on certain types of harvest practices that are otherwise permitted by the State of Alaska. The practices are: taking any black bear, including
cubs and sows with cubs, with artificial light at den sites; harvesting brown bears over bait; taking wolves and coyotes (including pups) during the denning season (between May 1 and August 9); taking swimming caribou; taking caribou from motorboats under power; taking black
bears over bait; and using dogs to hunt black bears. This rule is inconsistent with State of Alaska’s hunting regulations found at 5 AAC Part 85.

And a few more details from the Anchorage Daily News:

National preserves are parts of national parks designated by Congress to allow fishing, hunting, mining or other resource extraction. Central to the dispute is a 1994 state law that focuses on controlling predators — wolves, bears and other carnivores — in order to keep game such as caribou abundant for hunters. The Obama-era park service said that federal law doesn’t support reducing predators to boost populations of their prey.

U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, is vociferously opposed to the rule, which he said tramples on the state’s regulatory control over hunting. Young was able to pass a law revoking a similar Obama-era regulation issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service, because the administration issued it nearer to the end of President Barack Obama’s final term. But the park service rule remained in place.

 The 2015 rule demonstrated a long-running disagreement between federal and state game management officials on how to best manage predator populations in Alaska. In 2015, the park service said that certain hunting practices mess with predator-prey dynamics and upset the balance for harvest purposes, while causing problems for public safety.

 

But now the park service — under a new administration — has changed its mind. The proposed rule will delete portions of the 2015 rule that set limits on hunting that are not in line with state regulations.

The banned practices the park service plans to reverse include: “taking any black bear, including cubs and sows with cubs, with artificial light at den sites; harvesting brown bears over bait; taking wolves and coyotes (including pups) during the denning season (between May 1 and August 9); taking swimming caribou; taking caribou from motorboats under power; taking black bears over bait; and using dogs to hunt black bears,” according to the proposed rule.

 The state disputes that the hunting methods currently barred by the park service “are intended to function as a predator control program,” the proposed rule said. “The State also maintains that any effects to the natural abundances, diversities, distributions, densities, age-class distributions, populations, habitats, genetics, and behaviors of wildlife from implementing its regulations are likely negligible,” the proposed rule said.

 

The Associated Press story includes comment from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

These and other hunting methods — condemned as cruel by wildlife protection advocates — were outlawed on federal lands in 2015. Members of the public have 60 days to provide comment on the proposed new rules. 

“The conservation of wildlife and habitat for future generations is a goal we share with Alaska,” said Bert Frost, the park service’s regional director. “This proposed rule will reconsider NPS efforts in Alaska for improved alignment of hunting regulations on national preserves with State of Alaska regulations, and to enhance consistency with harvest regulations on surrounding non-federal lands and waters.” 

Alaska has 10 national preserves covering nearly 37,000 square miles (95,830 square kilometers). 

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game was “pleased to see the National Park Service working to better align federal regulations with State of Alaska hunting and trapping regulations,” Maria Gladziszewski, the state agency’s deputy director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, said in an email to The Associated Press. 

She said the proposal is “progress in that direction, and we appreciate those efforts. Alaskans benefit when state and federal regulations are consistent.” 

Gladziszewski said the state doesn’t conduct predator control in national preserves. “Predator control could be allowed in preserves only with federal authorization because such actions are subject to NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review,” she said. 

Expanding hunting rights on federal lands has been a priority for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke , a former Montana congressman who displays a taxidermied bear in his Washington office along with mounted heads from a bison and an elk. 

The Obama-era restrictions on hunting on federal lands in Alaska were challenged by Safari Club International, a group that promotes big-game hunting. The Associated Press reported in March that Zinke had appointed a board loaded with trophy hunters to advise him on conserving threatened and endangered wildlife, including members of the Safari Club. 

President Donald Trump’s sons are also avid trophy hunters who have made past excursions to Africa and Alaska. 

USFWS INVESTIGATING BLACK BEAR DEATH AT KENAI NWR

USFWS photos depict the scene of an alleged illegal black bear death at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that a black bear killed illegally at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Here’s the USFWS Facebook post on the incident:

On Thursday, May 17, 2018 at approximately 0930 hours, Federal Wildlife Officers (FWO) received a report of a Black Bear that had been poached near the East entrance of Skilak Loop approximately 1/2 mile from Jim’s Landing.

FWO Rob Barto and Wildlife Canine Rex responded to the scene and documented a large pool of blood in the middle of the road as well as drags marks from the scene into the woods and drag marks from the woods back to the road where the bear was loaded into a vehicle and transported from the area.

Witnesses describe the black bear as weighing approximately 100 pounds and no fear of vehicles or people. Witnesses also stated that a blue hatch back similar to a Subaru Outback as being the vehicle driven by the person who shot the bear as it stood in the middle of the road in this area that is closed to hunting. FWOs are asking anyone with information regarding this incident to please contact FWO Barto at 907.262.7021. All information will remain confidential.

Image may contain: outdoor and nature
Image may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and nature
 
 

Some more details from the ADN:

Witnesses who were driving on the road told wildlife officers that a person shot a bear Thursday as it stood in the middle of Skilak Lake Road, about a half-mile from Jim’s Landing, a recreation area with access to the Kenai River. They said the bear weighed about 100 pounds and it seemed to have no fear of vehicles or people, Miller said.

Miller said it’s believed the person shot the bear, dragged it into the woods for “minimal processing” and pulled the bear’s carcass back to the road. The person then loaded it into a blue hatchback, similar to a Subaru Outback, according to the refuge.

 “This was a harvest of an animal that was otherwise legally allowed to be harvested, but it was in a closed area,” Miller said.

While some parts of the refuge are open for hunting, this area is not, he said. Even if it was, it’s illegal for someone to take game by shooting on, from or across a drivable surface, according to Alaska hunting regulations.

Wildlife officers first learned of the shooting around 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Miller said.

Photographs that the refuge posted online Sunday show a pool of blood on the road and a trail of blood leading into the nearby trees.

 

From Skis To The Sea: Deadliest Catch Captain Keith Colburn

 

Note: A new episode of Deadliest Catch can be seen tonight at 10 p.m. on the Discovery Channel (check your local listings). Check out a clip above.

Our May cover story is on Deadliest Catch’s crab skipper, Capt. Keith Colburn of the Wizard. 

 

BY CHRIS COCOLES

When Keith Colburn first set foot in Alaska, there were bears – albeit a stuffed one – snow and regret about his decision to head north.

This was March 1985, when Colburn had manifest destiny expectations of arriving in the Last Frontier and finding work on a fishing boat. Initially, it went terribly.

Fast forward over 30 years and Colburn’s life in Alaska is completely different. He captains his own crab boat – the F/V Wizard – and is one of the skippers featured on Discovery’s hit series Deadliest Catch, which recently began its 14th season.

His celebrity status offers plenty of perks – it’s true: crab captains can be TV stars. Spy on Colburn’s social media pages and you’ll find him visiting Venice and attending sporting events like thoroughbred races, Seattle Seahawks games – sharing snaps of he and quarterback Russell Wilson – and college basketball’s NCAA Tournament.

“Overall, it’s been a wonderful, great ride. I’ve experienced new things; I’ve met some amazing people,” he says. “I’ve been able to do things I would have never done (and) the doors that have been opened from the exposure of being on TV.”

But it hasn’t been always like this; it’s a dream that was spawned on that gloomy welcome-to-Alaska nightmare of a first day.

Photos by Discovery Channel and Keith Colburn

COLBURN AND HIS BEST friend Kurt Frankenberg fled their beloved ski slopes of Lake Tahoe, a gorgeous alpine setting along the California-Nevada border, when they were in their early 20s – a little restless, a little impatient and maybe even a little dumb.

Colburn’s parents were in the casino industry in Tahoe, a popular gambling destination on the Silver State side of the lake. Their son had different career plans.

“I knew at an early age that I would not be in the casino industry,” says Colburn, now 55. “And I spent more time in the game room waiting for my dad to go on break to bum a quarter off of him – or a dime back then – to play pinball. And I just didn’t want anything to do with the casinos.”

At that time, he spent most of his days doing two things: skiing and cooking. He worked at a French and seafood restaurant, working his way through the ranks of the kitchen, from scrubbing dirty dishes to an assistant’s chef position.

The money was OK, and the camaraderie between Colburn and the rest of the staff meant fun times on their one day off a week. And the skiing, of course, in one of the West’s best locations for that sport, was fantastic. But it wasn’t enough to keep him there.

“The lifestyle was pretty demanding. I would spend eight to 10 hours a day in the kitchen and four or five hours in the morning skiing and not getting a whole lot of sleep,” he says.

Fishing? Save for trolling for Lake Tahoe’s famed trout and Mackinaw with buddies, Colburn was more entertained by the slopes than salmon. But a few years earlier, a restaurant coworker named Santo had had a proposition. He needed to get a Hans Christian sailboat moored in the San Francisco Bay area down the coast to San Diego and wanted a passenger to go along.

Why not? The fearless 18-year-old was up for any adventure. Colburn was hardly a sailor, and by the time they sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and hit the open water of the Pacific, he wasn’t sure if Santo knew what he was doing either.

“It went from flat water to 10-foot seas. That’s when I got my first instance with seasickness. We’re on a 36-foot boat with 25-foot seas sailing down the coast. It was a pretty scary situation,” Colburn says. “But at 18 years old when the captain is sort of a big bulletproof guy – I didn’t know what kind of mariner Santo was, I didn’t know anything about sailing, but he seemed calm enough and faithful enough that I never really became afraid when I was out there. I was crazy.”

The weather was violent enough that they had to hand-steer rather than use the autopilot. They were essentially surfing downwind with 20- to 25-foot waves crashing over the deck.

“Every two minutes I’m waist- or chest-deep in water trapped to the helm trying to follow a little red globe as a compass and keeping the boat on course,” Colburn says. “It was nuts, but I fell in love. And a few years later, I was getting a little burned out on cooking.”

Cue Colburn convincing his BFF Frankenberg to find their sea legs on a fishing vessel far from home, on far more stormy seas.

“I had an older friend who a couple years earlier had gone to Alaska and had come home with a pocket full of money and he’d said there were lots of opportunities for young guys who wanted to try and fish,” he says. “And so I made the decision to, instead of committing myself to wanting to be a chef, I would be willing to try something different. And so, kind of on a whim, we decided to go to Alaska.”

What could possibly go wrong?

In his free time, Colburn gets in some sportfishing (below) and skiing with his best friend, Kurt Frankenberg, who headed to Alaska with him to pursue a fishing career.

 

LONG BEFORE THE INTERNET was a useful tool, Colburn’s Alaska research was done from a landline. He called the chambers of commerce at various port towns. He and Frankenberg concluded that Kodiak had enough fishing seasons to give them a decent chance to find work.

In their possession the guys had literally $50 and a tent to sleep in. Never mind a return ticket to the Lower 48.

“We were completely committed,” Colburn says.

And they questioned that commitment immediately. Colburn remembered the exact date: March 7.

“We get off the plane, and back then in 1985, the airport at Kodiak was like two Quonset huts put together. But they had this big statue when you go through the terminal and walk out of the other side of this big Kodiak brown bear that was kind of standing up,” he says. “It’s your introduction to Kodiak. And we just looked at each other and said, ‘Oh man; we’re screwed.’”

It wasn’t the only time Colburn and Frankenberg shared a blank stare and an uh-oh moment.

With a dusting of snow coming down, they hitchhiked from the airport to get down to the harbor. Upon entering the harbormaster’s office, they asked to leave their packs with him and look around for a while. When the harbormaster inquired about their presence on that blustery late-winter day, the guys said they were looking for jobs.

Here’s how the exchange went:

“What kind of work you looking for?”

“Well, we want to fish.”

“Well, I’ve got some bad news for you guys.”

“What’s the bad news?”

“You guys are about a month early. The herring fleet isn’t even going to start gearing up for about three weeks. Crab (season) is just winding down and those guys are still out there fishing and they’re nowhere near here. And the rest of the fleet is going to be tied up for at least another month.”

It was Colburn’s no room-at-the-inn introduction to Alaska.

“And now, for the second time, we look at each other and say, ‘No, we’re not screwed. We’re totally screwed.’ So there was a lot of, ‘What the hell did we get ourselves into?’”

A few days later, some hope arrived in the form of the F/V Alaska Trader, a 135-foot crabber/tender that had been mothballed around Bristol Bay. It was pulled into Kodiak looking haggard and beaten up, but with an owner aspiring to put it back in the water again to fish. Enter an opportunity for two eager, if not desperate, greenhorns looking for any opportunity they could find.

It was the first step in a new career as a fisherman for Colburn.

“And what they needed was two really stupid kids to do the worst jobs you can ever imagine on the planet. It was for room and board,” he says. “There was no pay. But you know what? Those staterooms on the Alaska Trader were a helluva lot nicer than the tent we were staying in.”

Keith Lambert’s fishing vessel, The Wizard.

Wizard crew (from L to R) Deckhand Danny Makai, Deckhand Freddy Maugatai, First Mate Gary Soper, Captain Keith Colburn, Relief Captain Monte Colburn, Engineer Lenny Lekanoff and Deckhand Lynn Guitard shot during Deadliest Catch Season 7 in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

WHEN HE LEFT HIS skis for the sea in the 1980s, aspiring chef Keith Colburn was pulling in about $24,000 a year in the kitchen of that Lake Tahoe restaurant. That first year in Kodiak, when he and Frankenberg were doing the grunt work to restore the Alaska Trader and eventually fish on the vessel, they didn’t gross half that.

But he says that’s a story no different than the other dreamers who flock to Alaska to hitch a ride on a boat and try to make a life out of it.

“So the question wasn’t, ‘Why did you go to Alaska?’ The question was, ‘Why did you go back?’” Colburn says.

“But the very first time we set sail out of Kodiak going to Togiak for the herring in early April, we were on watch. It was a beautiful night and we’re going through the islands, and I’m over on the port side of the wheelhouse and the captain comes over and goes, ‘Yeah; you’re hooked.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘You’ve got the look.’ I was literally hooked immediately and just fell in love with being on the water.”

By 1988, he became a full-time deckhand on the Wizard, and within a few years he elevated himself from working down below in the engine room to being on deck as a deck boss, to then a mate and a relief captain. Finally, in 2005 he purchased the boat from one of his mentors, John Jorgensen.

“All of a sudden John handed me the keys and said, ‘You know what? You’re the captain now.’ And it’s gone from there.”

He’s made not just a career out of crab fishing the dangerous, and yes, deadly waters they work on – in this season’s premiere, all of the vessels paid tribute to the crew of the F/V Destination, lost in 2017 when the boat sank in the Bering Sea. But there’s also the fame that’s come with being a fellow skipper on Discovery’s most successful series.

That said, Colburn also is grateful that Deadliest Catch has given his industry a collective face. Yes, viewers only see what the cameras shoot and producers decide to air. But as this unlikely mega hit began its 14th season last month, it’s important to note the impact the show’s had on all of those who aren’t household names in the commercial fishing cosmos.

Colburn has testified in Congress multiple times, making pleas when pending government shutdowns have threatened to delay the opening of king crab season in Alaskan waters.

“It wasn’t like they slammed the door in our face in Washington D.C., but we were the little guys and kind of an afterthought. But all of a sudden, along comes TV and the doors are opening wider and wider all the time,” Colburn says. “It’s helped not only myself but all fisheries, and I think the awareness about the risk of fishing, the rewards of fishing and the value of the product that we bring in, the biggest thing is that it’s helped fishermen all around the United States. You watch Deadliest Catch and you see guys risking their lives to catch crab; you get a better understanding of why it’s expensive. (Crab are) incredibly dangerous to catch.”

“Going back to the first industries that were ever in America – fishing and whaling – long before we became a country and started farming in America, there were fishermen. So for us keeping that way of life alive throughout the United States, I think that would be the biggest reward that I can say has come from the show.” ASJ

Editor’s note: New episodes of Deadliest Catch can be seen on Tuesday nights on the Discovery Channel at 10 Pacific (check your local listings). Follow Capt. Keith Colburn on Twitter (@crabwizard) and Instagram (@captainkeithcolburn) and like at facebook.com/CaptainKeithColburn.

From left to right: Jake Harris, Josh Harris, Captain Andy Hillstrand, Captain Johnathan Hillstrand, Captain Keith Colburn, Captain Bill Wichrowski, Captain Sig Hansen, Jake Anderson, Edgar Hansen.

Week One Results In Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby

Nick Bronson’s 140-pound halibut. (HOMER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE)

 

Week one leader Michael Eskelson, who caught a 187-pound halibut. (HOMER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE)

The Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby is off and running. Here’s a report after week one:

The first week of the Jackpot Halibut Derby was a busy one with a 2005 and 2014 tag caught and 2 Jackpot Fish weighed in.

Jackpot Leader:
Michael Eskelson of Sutton, AK brought in a 187.6-pound, 76-inch fish.  Michael was fishing on a private boat fishing with 40-pound test weight line on a small salmon penn reel.
Nick Bronson of Albuquerque, NM brought in a 140-pound, 69.5-inch fish.  Nick was fishing with Brooks Alaskan Adventures with Captain Josh Brooks aboard the Huntress.
IPHC (International Pacific Halibut Commission) emailed, someone had caught a tagged fish from 2005.  When tagged the fish was 19 inches, length when caught was 30 inches.  The fish was caught on the Cape Cleare Spit Grounds, which south west of Cape Cleare.
A 2014 tagged fish was caught by an unknown angler. In 2014 the fish weighted about 23 pounds and on Thursday when caught it had grown to a healthy 95 pounds  The fish was both released and caught by Captain Josh Brooks aboard the Huntress.
Beginning Thursday the Derby Shack on the Spit will be open seven days a week from 12pm-7pm.

Alaska Group Presses Council To Buy Land, Block Mining

The following press release is courtesy of E&E News:

The Bering River Coal Field region in Alaska. David Little/Eyak Preservation Council

Leaders of environmental, hunting and fishing groups in Alaska today urged state and federal officials to formally study buying land to prevent it from being mined for coal.

The coalition from Cordova, Alaska, wrote to Sam Cotten, who sits on the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, to ask that the panel purchase 11,000 acres of the Bering River Coal Field on the state’s southern coast.

Cotten, who’s also commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game, is one of six trustees on the state-federal body created to protect the region after the infamous environmental disaster.

The land could be opened to coal mining without council action, the group said.

“Mining it by mountaintop removal and strip mining would be devastating to our community with losses of jobs, subsistence, and fish and wildlife and their habitats in the eastern portion of the EVOS region,” it wrote, using the shorthand for Exxon Valdez oil spill.

A separate Cordova organization, the Native Conservancy Land Trust, filed a request with the council yesterday to consider purchasing the tract.

“This is an historic opportunity to secure the well-being of the entire region,” Dune Lankard, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “To not ensure the conservation and protection of one of the most pristine wild salmon regions on the planet would be a colossal mistake.”

The appeal for a “link-to-injury” study of buying the land was backed last year by Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

“The remaining leases … certainly could impact many of the hundreds of thousands of acres that the council has already acquired for surface habitat protection,” Murkowski wrote in a letter to the council. “That is because the Gulf of Alaska Gyre moves water from the mouths of the Bering, Copper and Martin Rivers directly into Prince William Sound’s Orca Inlet, Hinchinbrook Entrance and toward the coastline of Montague Island — all within the boundaries of the EVOS settlement program.”

In the aftermath of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, state and federal authorities established the council to rehabilitate the ecosystem and to support scientific research, funded by fines paid out by the oil giant.

In 1991, the Department of Justice and Alaska secured a $900 million penalty from Exxon, to be doled out over a decade. Some of the money could be used to purchase the area.

Tim Richardson, who represents the Eyak Preservation Council, an Alaskan conservation group, said that doing so would fit with the Exxon Valdez council’s mandate to protect and acquire habitat.

“That’s Exhibit A of why to do this,” Richardson said by phone. “We’re covered by their basic purpose.”

Richardson criticized the council’s trustees — three state and three federal officials — for failing to act.

“We have been running into bureaucratic myopia,” he said.

They’re also up against the clock. The Korea Alaska Development Corp., headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, owns the coal field in question, and its majority owner, Joo Shin, has favored preventing it from being mined. But last month, Shin, who is nearly 80, wrote the council that he would convey some of his company shares by May 28 to others, who may favor development.

South Korea has become a burgeoning market for U.S. coal exports as its fleet of coal-fired power plants has expanded in recent years.

Hatchery King Salmon Harvest Opened in Coffman Cove

ADFG photo

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

Beginning Friday, May 18, through Thursday, June 14, 2018, the king salmon regulations in Coffman Cove are as follows:

  • In the continuous waters (black area — See Map) of Coffman Cove west of a line from the mainland of Prince of Wales Island at 56o 01.23 N. lat., 132o 49.86 W. long. to Coffman Island at 56o 01.37 N. lat., 132o 50.20 W. long. and south of a line from the mainland to Coffman Island at 56o 1.69’ N. lat.
    • The bag and possession limit for all anglers is one king salmon 28 inches or greater in length;
    • The nonresident annual harvest limit is three king salmon 28 inches or greater in length.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries authorized the department to use its emergency order authority to open terminal harvest areas to target surplus Alaska hatchery king salmon. The area opened by this emergency order will allow anglers to target Alaska hatchery-produced king salmon originating from the Port Saint Nicholas hatchery near Craig. The last release of king salmon in Coffman Cove occurred in 2016, as a result returning hatchery king salmon will be 4-year old fish. Broodstock are not collected at Coffman Cove providing a surplus of hatchery fish for harvest by sport anglers.

Anglers are reminded that until June 15, the salt waters outside of Coffman Cove Terminal Harvest Area are closed to king salmon retention. Therefore, anglers fishing in multiple areas for other species must be diligent to ensure they do not possess king salmon in areas that prohibit the retention of king salmon. On June 15, 2018 regionwide regulations will apply in these areas.

For further information concerning this announcement please contact Prince of Wales Area Management Biologist, Craig Schwanke at (907) 826-2498.

Hatchery King Salmon Harvest Opened in Coffman Cove

Sitka To Host Chinook Symposium On Monday

ADFG photo

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) invites the public to attend a Chinook Salmon Symposium, Monday, May 21, 5:00-8:00pm, at Harrigan Centennial Hall in Sitka, Alaska. Attend this free symposium and learn about the status of Southeast Alaska Chinook salmon, research and management, the Pacific Salmon Treaty, and participation in the public process. Hosted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, this event features:

  • Chinook salmon research– what we know about how local stocks are performing, as well as Pacific Northwest Chinook salmon stocks coastwide.
  • A look at the last 10 years of Chinook salmon management for the commercial and sport fisheries – annual allocations, actual harvest, and performance relative to the Pacific Salmon Treaty.
  • Conservative actions – management measures in response to poor Chinook salmon production.
  • Treaty transparency – a summary of the treaty past, present, and future.
  • Public process and participation – an overview of the public regulatory process and how to get involved.
  • Public question and answer session.

Join ADF&G for this evening of informative presentations by our fisheries research and management team.

Agenda

5:00 Opening Remarks Commissioner Sam Cotten
5:15 Chinook Salmon Research Overview Ed Jones, Chinook Salmon Research Coordinator
5:45 A look at the last 10 years of Chinook salmon management for the commercial and sport fisheries and recent conservative actions in response to poor Chinook salmon production. Bob Chadwick, Southeast Regional Management Coordinator – Sport Fish Division
Grant Hagerman, Sitka Troll Manager – Commercial Fisheries Division
6:15 Treaty transparency – a summary of the treaty past, present and future Charles O. Swanton, Deptuy Commissioner and Pacific Salmon Commissioner for Alaska
6:45 Public process and participation Glenn Haight, Executive Director of the Board of Fisheries
7:00 Public Q&A Session Moderated by Glenn Haight

News From The Pending Premiere Of The Wild

The following press release is courtesy of The Wild film:

In addition to eating wild salmon, a great and simple thing you could do is help us increase our audience for The Wild, our forthcoming sequel.
As you probably know, social media is now essential to spread the word about global issues and make the impact of a documentary like The Wild even greater – through passionate  and vibrant communities like ours.
So, here are a few ways we’ve come up with for you to help – while sharing some love in return…
1. You could win a dinner for two at Tom Douglas’ wild-salmon lovin’,Etta’s Restaurant along with a signed DVD copy of The Breach!!
If you don’t want to miss out on this opportunity, all you have to do is LIKE and SHARE The Wild Facebook page to your personal page AND (if you are on Instagram) Follow our Instagram feed@thewildfilm before 5pm this Friday (TOMORROW!)  Don’t worry, if you share, we’ll find you and let you know if you won…

2. I will have the privilege to be a speaker at Fisherman’s Feast, at Tom Douglas’ Dahlia Loungerestaurant on May 24th!
This event will celebrate some of the best seafood purveyors in the Northwest, and feature sustainable and local shellfish and fin-fish. Sign up for the dinner and mention The Wild to receive a free signed DVD copy of The Breach!
And feel free to to share the event!

3. The story at the start of it all, The Breach, will be shown at Bellingham’s Pickford Film Center as a SeaFeast special event on May 29th. This will be the perfect occasion to present an exclusive 5-minute-preview ofThe Wild!
Stay tuned on our Facebook pagefor a great giveaway tomorrow
Sign up for the screening by following this link.

 

Magnificient Sights Of The Sound

 

Photos by Hugh Rose

 

The following book excerpt appears in the May issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:

Editor’s note: Fjords and fish; bears and birds; glaciers and glitz; Prince William Sound represents one of North America’s most spectacular backyards and flanks Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Author Debbie Miller and photographer Hugh Rose chronicled every step they took around the breathtaking Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area, a 2-million-acre natural wonderland on the sound’s west side, then tag-teamed to create a new book that highlights the region’s flora and fauna. The following is excerpted with permission from A Wild Promise: Prince William Sound (published by Braided River, 2018) by Debbie S. Miller; photography by Hugh Rose. Braided River is an imprint of Mountaineers Books. 

BY DEBBIE S. MILLER

PHOTOS BY HUGH ROSE 

It’s a breathless morning on McClure Bay. Layers of clouds and mist obscure the surrounding mountains, shrouding the rainforest in silence. The rhythmic stroking of paddles breaks the quiet as our kayak slips through the glassy intertidal water. Below, I spot small, purple shore crabs racing between barnacle-specked rocks, while gold rockweed undulates with the current. Every so often we see a dazzling orange or purple starfish, anchored in a sheltered pool.

On this particular day, I’m paddling with Kaz, an 82-year-old woman on her first trip to Alaska. Fit and full of enthusiasm, this is also her first experience in a kayak, and she’s thrilled to be paddling. A retired graphic designer, Kaz sees the beauty in rock and water, the intricate patterns of nature, and the subtle elements of a landscape few would stop to study and photograph.

“What’s that?” Kaz hears a strange new sound.

It’s the shrill, descending chitter of a bald eagle soaring above us. We watch it perch on the crown of a moss-cloaked Sitka spruce. We’re close enough to see the intense golden eyes of this formidable bird. Kaz and I spot several bald eagles, some flying above the forest, others gazing down at us from their evergreen perches. When eagles gather near the head of a bay or an incoming stream, you can safely bet that salmon are there.

Soon we see salmon jumping and wriggling up a nearby shallow inlet stream. It’s low tide, so we can clearly observe the big chum salmon (also known as dog salmon in Alaska because they are traditionally fed to sled dogs). They wiggle and scoot across the water’s surface, dorsal fins and backs exposed. There are hundreds of them, moving through the shallows, thrashing and splashing to reach the clear freshwater inlet.

Without a whisper, Hugh points across the stream, near the forest’s edge. We study the landscape of tall spruce and hemlock, alder thickets, and a fringe of meadow. Something round and dark is moving. A big black bear, looking healthy, with a belly no doubt full of salmon, ambles through the grasses and scattered willows. What a great place to scoop up a favorite fish.

This bear is one of few sighted on Discovery [tour boat] trips in recent years. Their numbers have dropped in the area because of increased hunting pressure, which includes the allowance of bear baiting. While black bears were once regularly seen along the streams and beaches of Prince William Sound, road access to Whittier and overhunting has diminished their population. A number of people have raised their voices about the worrisome decline, including Dean, who has witnessed it.

We watch the sleek bear with glossy, thick black fur swagger up the river in no particular hurry. Near the stream, there are thickets of salmonberries and blueberries, a perfect buffet for the bear. After he disappears in the woods, we beach the kayaks and take a closer look at the salmon as they muscle upstream through water just a few inches deep.

Nellie Juan College Fiord Wilderness Study area, Chugach National Forest, Prince William Sound, Alaska, Chum Salmon return to the intertidal area of Port Nellie Juan to spawn every summer

Pink salmon school up in eelgrass beds in McClure Bay before migrating into freshwater streams to spawn.

CROUCHED ON THE RIVERBANK, I’m looking into the eyes of several large chum salmon, their heads and slithering bodies well above the water. Chum salmon are hefty fish, second only to king salmon in size. The spawning males have hooked jaws with sharp, canine-like teeth. Their mouths gape as they fin their bodies forward. Some become stranded in the shallows. They twist, jackknife their bodies, and leap to reach deeper water.

The clear water of the stream offers a great chance to see these colorful fish. The males, some of them 10-pounders, have flashing plum stripes streaking across their silver-green bodies. Each fish has a unique psychedelic, tie-dyed pattern of colors. The females’ coloring is more subdued, with a dark stripe running along the midline of their silvery bodies.

The countless streams around Prince William Sound support healthy salmon spawning runs, including four species of Pacific salmon: chum (dog), pink (humpback), red (sockeye), and silver (coho) salmon. Two major state-owned hatcheries in the Chugach wilderness also enhance pink and sockeye runs, largely for commercial fishing.

While the hatcheries produce millions of fish for the commercial fishing industry, some worry that over time such fish will diminish the strength and productivity of wild salmon, and, in fact, some scientists argue that this is already happening. 

These wild chum salmon are nearing the end of their lives. After spending three to four years at sea, they now return to their birthplace, the natal stream where we stand. Here the males and females will pair and spawn. In three to four months, their buried fertilized eggs will hatch. 

The tiny fry will spend a short time in the stream, then migrate to saltwater when they are 1 to 2 inches long. For several months, they will live in protected waters, hiding in eelgrass beds, eating insects and crustaceans, escaping bigger fish. When ready, the survivors will venture out into the big, deep blue.

This stream is pristine. Each fin, every rock, each wisp of algae is in perfect focus. It is one stream of thousands that flow into Prince William Sound from the glaciated mountains and through the dense forest. The temperate rainforest filters every raindrop through its moss-cloaked branches, its understory of devil’s club and ferns, its thick sedge meadows, and its luxurious carpet of spongy sphagnum moss. This filtering creates the crystalline, pure, oxygen-rich water that spawning salmon need.

A bald eagle perches in a western hemlock tree in Cedar Bay.

EACH STREAM IN THE rainforest is a living thread connecting land to sea. What the stream and sheltering forest give to the salmon, the salmon give back when they return to their birthplace. The spawning salmon are a source of food for many forest creatures, and the marine nutrients from their decaying carcasses enrich the web of life in and around the streams. As much as 70 percent of the nitrogen found in vegetation near spawning streams comes directly from salmon. This means a Sitka spruce in salmon-spawning country can grow more than three times faster than trees living away from such streams.

Amy Gulick’s book Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest eloquently portrays this story. Just as salmon are in the trees, so are trees in the salmon. The leaves and needles of streamside plants provide shelter and food for invertebrates. Some of those tiny creatures fall in the water and become a salmon meal. When leaves, branches, or trees fall in a stream, they provide nutrients and food for bacteria, algae, plankton, and aquatic insects. Young salmon then thrive on these food sources. Each generation of salmon benefits from the nutrient-rich forest that their ancestors helped create. ASJ

Editor’s note: To order A Wild Promise: Prince William Sound, go to https://www.braidedriver.org/wild-promise. For more on the author and photographer, check out https://www.debbiemilleralaska.com/ and https://hughrosephotography.com/.  

The sun sets over the snow covered Kenai Mountains on the western side of Prince William Sound near Eshamy Lagoon in spring.

Meares Glacier originates from an ice field high on the Chugach Mountains, and flows fifteen miles past Mount Grovesnor.

A sea otter mother with an older pup rest together on a small ice floe in Surprise Inlet near the face of the Surprise Glacier.

Polar Bear

Tufted puffins perch near the entrance to their burrow in the soil under tree roots of the rain forest on Glacier Island.

Lupine on the terminal moraine of the Columbia Glacier in June

Sabotage Likely The Cause In Deaths Of Salmon Smolt

Sitka Sound Science Center

KTOO Public Media has details on a likely act of vandalism that killed roughly 1,100 coho salmon smolt

Hatchery intern Maria Savolainen discovered the vandalism and reported it to Sitka police.

So 1,000 juvenile salmon — no big deal, right?

Wild coho, or silver salmon, spend more than a year in freshwater after they’ve hatched, before entering the ocean.

For a hatchery, growing coho to this size — about 24 grams in weight — is a big deal.

These fish were hatched here in the spring of 2016.

“They spend that first whole winter up until April in incubation, and they come out as little more than a quarter-gram,” Bowers said.

“They look like they’re 4 or 5 inches long now?” Woolsey asked

“Yep,” Bowers said.

This is not a huge tragedy, Bowers is the first to admit that.

It’s fortunate Savoleinen came in Saturday to feed the smolt, or the tank may have drained entirely, and killed all 15,000 silvers.

A little more from the Associated Press:

“We thought it was going to be much worse than it was,” said Lisa Busch, the center’s executive director. “Why would someone do this, though?”

Staff members first believed the valve might have been turned off by accident, Busch said.

“Originally, we thought it may have been a family visiting and a kid did it,” Busch said. “But it takes some strength to turn the valve.”

The loss of the young salmon resulted in about $1,100 in damages, said Angie Bowers, the center’s aquaculture director.

The center is installing surveillance cameras and taking steps to secure the water valves against tampering, officials said.

 

The fish in the tank have been at the hatchery for nearly 20 months, Bowers said. They were scheduled to be released soon to begin an 18-month ocean journey.