Category Archives: Featured Content

Seattle Wild Salmon Advocates To Host Rally

Photo by Brian Lull
Photo by Brian Lull

 

We’ve dived into the wild salmon versus farmed salmon debate among restaurants and grocery stores in previous Alaska Sporting Journals. It’s a critical issue in terms of long-term effects on the Pacific fishery and it’s very important and dear to the hearts of many Alaskans who have worked hard to preserve wild salmon and question the potential impact of salmon farms that have popped out throughout nearby British Columbia, Canada.

This weekend in Seattle, a rally will bring together pro-wild salmon supporters to send their message. Here are the details:

 A broad coalition of progressive groups, concerned Costco customers, and fishermen will demonstrate this Saturday at the Seattle Costco to challenge the grocery chain to publicly commit to not sell GMO salmon. Due to a campaign by Friends of the Earth and local, regional and national allies, more than 60 retailers, including Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Safeway and Kroger, representing more than 9,000 grocery stores across the country, have made commitments to not sell this genetically modified fish. As one of the largest retailers of salmon and seafood in the U.S., and headquartered in the Northwest region home to Pacific wild salmon, Costco’s stance on GMO salmon will factor heavily in national retail decisions.

Nearly two million people — including scientists, fishermen, business owners and consumers — have written to the FDA in opposition to the approval of genetically engineered salmon due to the risks GMO salmon pose to human health, environment and wild salmon. Despite this outcry, the FDA is still considering GMO salmon’s approval. If approved, this would be the first genetically engineered animal allowed by regulators to enter the U.S. food supply, and it will likely not be labeled.

What: A rally and petition delivery of more than 50,000 petition signatures demanding that Costco commit to not selling GMO Salmon.
Where: In front of the Seattle Costco (Sodo neighborhood), 4401 4th Ave S, Seattle, WA
When: 2-4 p.m., Saturday, March 7
Who: Representatives of Alaskan Native American Tribe, UFCW Local 21; fishermen; members of the Washington environmental community; and Seattle residents will speak at the rally.
Visuals will include people holding banners, and salmon art and boxes of petitions.
Background on GMO salmon and market rejection of the GMO salmon is available at www.gefreeseafood.org

For more information, contact Danielle Friedman, organizing director at the Community Alliance for Global Justice, and Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

Danielle Friedman, (206) 910-7877danielle@seattleglobaljustice.org
Dana Perls, (925) 705-1074dperls@foe.org 

Alaska BOG: No Drones For Commercial Salmon Fishing

Photo by Nicolas Halftermeyer/Wikimedia

Photo by Nicolas Halftermeyer/Wikimedia

The controvesy over drones has already affected hunting in Alaska. Now you can include commercial salmon fishing.

Here’s the Alaska Dispatch:

The Alaska Board of Game, which sets wildlife regulations, a year ago approved regulations blocking hunters from using remote-control aircraft to locate big game, and the Board of Fisheries has now moved to prohibit commercial fishermen from using drones to spot schooling salmon.

The latest action came Sunday at the Fish Board meeting in Sitka. Board members shot down the use of drones for economic reasons.

 “I’m for keeping pilots employed and not using unmanned aircraft for fish spotting,” the station reported him saying.

Board chairman Tom Kluberton agreed, according to KCAW, saying he tends “to look very hard at existing patterns of areas and fisheries, and I do like — whenever possible — to promote economic stability. We’ve had aircraft in this region for a long time. There are folks who stake their livelihoods and contribute to local economies flying their aircraft. I feel it’s just an unnecessary move” to allow drones.

 

Lost Blind Dog Reunites With Owner

 

(ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO)

I’m a sucker for inspiring stories about dogs, and this is a remarkable one out of the Fairbanks area:

 

A blind dog who wandered away from her Ester, Alaska, home during a cold snap has been reunited with her owner.

The 11-year-old Labrador retriever named Madera ventured away from home on Feb. 6, when the temperature dipped to 40 degrees below zero.

Her owner, Ed Davis, said he didn’t expect to find her alive. “My best hope was to walk those trails and look for a track that might be hers,” he said. “My best hope was to find a frozen dog.”

A man riding a bike accompanied by a bell-wearing dog located Madera in the woods last week, about a half-mile from the Davis’ home, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. Madera let out a whine when she heard the dog’s bell.

 

No Early Kenai King Fishing (Again)

Photo by Earl Foytack

Photo by Earl Foytack

The embattled Kenai River’s king salmon fishery has endured some difficult times in recent years. Now for a second straight year, parts of the Kenai will be shut down for early-run Chinook fishing.

Here’s the Peninsula Clarion with more:

The river will be closed to king fishing downstream of Slikok Creek through June 30 to protect early run king salmon.

Managers have also closed the river to king fishing upstream of Slikok Creek through July 31 to protect spawning early run kings, said Fish and Game Sport Fish Division Area Management Biologist Robert Begich.

While the king salmon management actions are largely similar to the 2014 preseason actions, anglers will have an opportunity to harvest Kasilof River king salmon during the early run.

Anglers will be allowed to keep a naturally produced or hatchery fish on Saturdays during May and June, Begich said, but the fishery will be restricted to a single-hook and no bait.

“Based on what we’ve seen at the weir, at the assessment site on Crooked Creek the last few years … they’re not producing well enough to do three days of harvest,” he said. “We feel that we can allow some harvest down there and still meet the needs for achieving escapement and then also a brood stock program for stocking.”

 

 

Iditarod Changes Course; Will Start From Fairbanks

Dallas Seavey, the defending champion in the Iditarod, will start from Fairbanks and not the usual Anchorage starting line this year. (DALLAS SEAVEY)

Dallas Seavey, the defending champion in the Iditarod, will start from Fairbanks and not the usual Anchorage starting line this year. (DALLAS SEAVEY)

We’re hitching up our huskies and taking a dog sled journey in the upcoming March issue of Alaska Sporting Journal. Following up on our December profile of the dog mushing Berington twins, we’ll have an Iditarod preview this month with among other stories an interview with defending champ Dallas Seavey, whose second win in the “Last Great Race on Earth” followed his 2012 championship when he became the event’s youngest winner.

If he’s to win his third title in four years, Seavey will do so from a different route. In most races, the Iditarod’s dog teams shove off from Nome – the route is alternated a bit in odd and even years, but almost always from Nome. But circumstances – read, low snowfall totals – have changed this year, and Fairbanks will mark the official start of the race on March 9 after the ceremonial start in Anchorage.

From the Fairbanks Daily Miner:

Members of the trail committee’s board of directors met Tuesday and voted unanimously to change the course due to low snowfall in some of the most treacherous sections of the trail’s roughly 1,000 miles.

Similar conditions forced the race’s restart to move from Willow to Fairbanks in 2003, bypassing the Alaska Range but keeping it roughly the same distance. The move to Fairbanks was considered in snow-starved 2014, too, and after the board’s decision kept mushers on the traditional southern route, the bruised and beaten up dog drivers criticized officials for not avoiding what some of them described as a catastrophe.

This year’s Iditarod will be 19 miles shorter — 968 miles versus 987 — than the traditional northern route that teams would have taken in an odd year and will pass through two new checkpoints in the Interior: Huslia and Koyukuk. In 2003, mushers had to backtrack on the Yukon River to make more miles, so the jaunt north to the villages means a snaky yet flowing route that still goes about 1,000 miles total to the finish in Nome.

First, though, Iditarod’s ceremonial start is scheduled for March 7 in Anchorage in an 11-mile untimed trip through the city’s party atmosphere, on streets and trails. Then it will restart in Fairbanks on March 9, a Monday instead of the usual Sunday restart in Willow, to allow kennels enough time to drive dog trucks north 360 miles.

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This Alaska Dispatch report stressed how communities must adapt to the change of the course:

After word came Tuesday night that organizers would re-route more than 600 miles of trail because portions of the original trail were deemed impassable, communities and commercial interests along both the old and new trails were regrouping.

Steve Perrins, owner of the Perrin’s Rainy Pass Lodge on Puntilla Lake, said he suspects he’ll lose $25,000 worth of business this year.

“That’s just quick math,” he said. “That hurts this time of year, but what can you do?

 “We take it in stride and go on to the next step.”

 Takotna checkpoint manager Nell Huffman said Wednesday the tiny community of 50 had been preparing for the race, with some supplies purchased and more than $4,000 raised to help fund the checkpoint. She said Wednesday residents have already received boxes of donated supplies for the famous Takotna pies from schools in South Carolina.

 The villagers will hold on to those supplies until next year’s race, but Huffman said some money and food will go toward school activities. Pies may show up at an array of community events in the next year.

 “We half expected (the restart decision),” Huffman said.  “We hoped it came here and understand why it’s not. This is the highlight of the year for Takotna.”

 McGrath Mayor Dustin Parker said while the community understands the safety concerns behind the move, it’s still hard to swallow for the hub community of about 400. Many residents look forward to the seasonal jobs the race brings, from picking up extra shifts on the airport baggage ramp to helping bag groceries at the Alaska Commercial Co. store.

 “Those are all the jobs put on hiatus,” he said.

 

 

Short Film On SE Alaska Mining Risks To Premiere

 
xboundary ss 2
With mining becoming a booming business all around British Coumbia, Canada, it’s clear Alaskans just across the border are fighting back. Hence, Trout Unlimited’s Alaska program and the environmental group Salmon Beyond Borders collaborated on a film short, Xboundary, which stresses the concerns about the mining that, like the Pebble Mine to the northwest in salmon-rich Bristol Bay, could pose potential harm to the ecosystem in Southeast Alaska.
I was able to see a sneak preview of the film, which will be available to view online this Thursday. At just six minutes and change long, I won’t provide too much information and spoil the message. But very compelling arguments are made.
Xboundary begins with a black screen and background noise of raging water with this passage from the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty between the U.S. and Canada:
“WATERS FLOWING ACROSS THE BOUNDARY SHALL NOT BE POLLUTED ON EITHER SIDE TO THE INJURY OF HEALTH OR PROPERTY ON THE OTHER.”
The opponents of the mines interviewed talk of the three major river systems that share Canadian and U.S. soil – the Taku, Stikine and Unuk, and the mining operations that are within a close proximity of the rivers and their tributaries that wild salmon from the Pacific spawn in.
It’s a really well-produced film and worth your time to see when it’s made available for viewing. Here’s a press release, with information about the film’s online premiere later this week:
Trout Unlimited, Alaska Program, in collaboration with Salmon Beyond Borders, cordially invite you to an exclusive online screening of the new video, Xboundary. 
This film short, by acclaimed Alaska filmmaker Ryan Peterson, showcases the beauty and abundance of Southeast Alaska’s temperate rainforest, home to some of the world’s healthiest runs of wild salmon. The video also tackles some tough issues this region faces from neighboring Canada. Through the voices of fishermen, Alaska Natives, First Nations, tourism guides, and others, Xboundary explores the huge threats to the Alaska/B.C. transboundary region from large-scale developments in British Columbia. The video will leave you wanting to join the fight to protect this wild place, its salmon, Native cultures and unique way of life. 
 
This Thursday Feb. 12, the video will be live at salmonbeyondborders.org

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B.C. Mining Accident’s Potential Impact

The Skitkine River is one of the areas that could be affected by the Mount Polley Mine. (Sam Beebe/Wikimedia

The Skitkine River is one of the areas that could be affected by the Mount Polley Mine. (Sam Beebe/Wikimedia

 

It’s arguably not as big a story as the Bristol Bay region’s opposition to the Pebble Mine, but in Southeast Alaska, another mining project just across the border into British Columbia, Canada, the Mount Polley Mine.

An independent review of the potential environmental impact the mine could have on the ecosystem (you can the full report here).

The following is a detailed press release explaining what went into the study and its results:

MOUNT POLLEY MINE REPORT HIGHLIGHTS THREATS TO ALASKA SALMON, FISHING JOBS AND COMMUNITIES FROM B.C. MINES
 
Rather than calming Alaskans’ worries, new report is a rallying cry for U.S. State Department action to demand better salmon safeguards from B.C.
 
A diverse group of Alaskans said a report released today on the Mount Polley mine disaster in British Columbia (B.C.) provides new evidence that mines planned and under construction in the B.C. headwaters of highly productive Southeast Alaska salmon rivers are a threat to multi-billion dollar fisheries and a way of life for thousands of Alaskans. They call for the U.S. State Department to engage in meaningful bilateral discussions with Canada that ensure better safeguards for salmon  before such mines are allowed to move forward.
 
“Today’s report underscores that, when it comes to the safety of large-scale mines, B.C.’s track record speaks for itself. The Mount Polley disaster is a stark example of B.C.’s stewardship of a project that the government and the developer claimed was safe. We can’t let a similar accident taint the rivers of the transboundary region along the border between northwest B.C. and Southeast Alaska,” said Mark Jensen, mayor of Petersburg Borough, one of Southeast Alaska’s largest fishing communities. 
 
The independent review panel appointed by the B.C. government concluded the dam failed due to a design flaw which was not caught in the permitting process. It stemmed from a portion of the dam’s foundation being built on glacial soil that proved to be unstable as the tailings pond grew heavier. One of the engineers on the panel described Mount Polley as a “loaded gun” waiting to go off. The panel recommended that B.C. adopt better practices and use best available technology with safety a priority over economics. Alaskans are concerned that such fundamental changes in B.C. mining practices won’t be adopted due to time and expense and that there is no guarantee that such changes will actually reduce the long-term risks of transboundary mines.   
 
The Mount Polley tailings dam was approved by Canadian regulators to last in perpetuity, yet it failed in less than 20 years. The August 4, 2014, disaster sent an estimated 6.6 billion gallons of toxic mine waste and wastewater into the Fraser River watershed. The Fraser is one of Canada’s most important salmon-producing rivers. The environmental impacts of the spill will take years to fully comprehend, experts have said.
 
Mount Polley mine owner, Imperial Metals, is constructing a much larger mine, Red Chris, in the northwest B.C. headwaters of the Stikine River, one of Southeast Alaska’s most prolific salmon producers. A recent independent review of the Red Chris tailings storage facility found serious design flaws, raising concerns that a similar Mount Polley-style disaster would contaminate Alaska waters. Despite this, Imperial Metals still plans to open Red Chris mine in early 2015.
 
“The transboundary region supports fisheries vital to Southeast Alaska. A similar accident at a transboundary mine like Red Chris could release large quantities of tailings that are more toxic than the Mount Polley spill. The Mount Polley disaster was a clear sign that B.C. cannot assure us transboundary waters and fish won’t be polluted by the province’s aggressive mining agenda. The Sitka Assembly passed a resolution in October 2014 urging stronger oversight to ensure that Alaska resources are not harmed by upstream development in B.C. A review by the International Joint Commission would be a step in the right direction,” said Mim McConnell, mayor of the City and Borough of Sitka.
 
The International Joint Commission is a bilateral commission established by the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, charged with resolving transboundary water disputes between the U.S. and Canada.
 
“Under the Boundary Waters Treaty, the U.S. and Canada are both committed to not polluting waters on their own side of the border to the injury of health or property on the other side of the border. Canada is not taking their treaty obligation seriously. We ask the State Department to work with Canada to ensure the treaty is respected and our interests are protected,” said Heather Hardcastle, a gillnetter and co-owner of Taku River Reds based in Juneau.
 
Even before the Mount Polley disaster, Alaskans had been pushing for the U.S. to have an equal seat at the table with Canada in discussions about how and if watersheds shared by both countries are developed. This equal footing currently doesn’t exist. The vast transboundary region is not only home to multi-billion dollar seafood and tourism industries, but to many tribal citizens, as well.
 
Multiple large-scale, open-pit mines like Red Chris are currently in various stages of development in the watersheds of three productive transboundary salmon rivers, the Taku, Stikine and Unuk, which flow from B.C. into Alaska. These projects raise red flags for many, including tribes, commercial and sport fishermen, tourism operators, municipalities and political leaders who have spoken out in numerous resolutions and letters.
 
“Today’s report raises more concerns than it answers. We need to halt these mines from moving ahead until our concerns are addressed. We have the right to be consulted on actions that could harm our culture and livelihoods, even if those actions are happening in Canada. This is why we need the State of Alaska and the State Department to do all they can to defend our way of life in the face of these threats,” said Rob Sanderson Jr., co-chair of the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, which includes 13 federally recognized tribes.
 
In late December 2014, despite thousands of objections from Alaskans and Canadians, including Alaska’s congressional delegation and legislators, the Canadian federal government approved KSM, a massive mine project just 19 miles upstream of the Alaska border. Critics compare the size of KSM to Pebble, a hugely controversial mine proposal in Bristol Bay. If built, KSM could leach acid mine drainage, heavy metals and other toxins into the transboundary Unuk River that drains into Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan, Alaska.
 
Clay Bezenek, a Ketchikan-based gillnetter, is also frustrated with B.C.’s fast-tracked mining plans for projects like KSM.
 
“The Unuk River has been kept wild by the people of Southeast Alaska. The importance of the health of the Unuk to our commercial seine, gillnet and troll salmon fisheries can’t be overstated. To not have all concerned parties at the table when discussing projects of this magnitude is a mistake. I’m calling on Alaska Governor Bill Walker and on Secretary of State John Kerry to help get us to the table now,” said Bezenek.
Today’s report focuses on the technical and engineering reasons for the Mount Polley dam failure and does not address shortcomings in Canada’s mining regulations that may have contributed to the dam failure. Although the report recommended changes to mining practices, there is no guarantee any of these measures will be adopted at proposed transboundary mines or if such measures can ensure tailings dams will not fail over the very long term. 
 
“The tailings dams at these mines are environmental time bombs. It’s not a question of if they are going to fail, it’s just a question of when. We just shouldn’t be putting large tailings dams near vital water sources and fish habitat,” said Marsh Skeele, a troller and vice president of Sitka Salmon Shares, a seafood company based in Sitka.
 
More information, images and a map are available

at www.salmonbeyondborders.org

Coast Guard Statistics On Boating Safety

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Sherman.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Sherman.

Summer will be here any minute now (well, maybe a little longer than that). But when the ice and snow go away in Alaska, boats will be out in full force in both fresh- and saltwater. Alaska’s United States Coast Guard 17th District released the following regarding boating safety:

JUNEAU, Alaska — The Coast Guard recognizes the successes of Alaska’s boating safety program with an 80 percent drop in recreational boating fatalities since HB108, Use, Regulation and Operation of Boats, was introduced in 1998.

Boating safety has come a long way since 1998 when there were 38 fatalities; in 2014 Alaska reported seven fatalities.  Alaska’s observed life jacket wear rates in the 13- to 17-year-olds’ category are nearly double the national rate. Alaska’s rate for boaters 18 and over is nearly three times the national wear rate.

However, the fatality demographic for non-commercial boaters in Alaska remains consistent:

  • Alcohol is reported to be a contributing factor in 25 percent of boating fatalities.
  • 90 percent of boating fatalities are adult males.
  • 90 percent of boating fatalities occur in boats under 26-feet.
  • 83 percent occur due to capsizing or falling overboard.
  • 75 percent occur while operating power boats.
  • 50 percent of boating fatalities occur in salt water.
  • 50 percent of boating fatalities occur in fresh water.

“The U.S. Coast Guard cautions mariners to ‘Boat Sober and Boat Safer,’” said Mike Folkerts, boating safety specialist, Coast Guard 17thDistrict.  “Take a boating safety class, file a float plan, keep a means of communication on your person and always wear your life jacket when on deck or in an open boat.”

 

 

Priming For Summer Chinook On Nushagak

nush meat (1)

 

 

Jake’s Nushagak Salmon Camp is getting ready for another summer of king salmon fishing. Eli Huffman, the camp’s host, filed this report:

2015 WILL BE AN 
OUTSTANDING YEAR!

 

For us, 2014 was the year without winter in Dillingham, Bristol Bay, and most of Alaska. There was no snow and the winter was an eternal spring. No, it never happens, and everyone kept thinking that the wind, cold, and snow would arrive but it never did. I guess Alaska’s winter passed its time in the Lower 48’s Midwest and East. No mosquitoes and never-ending sunshine made fishing the Nushagak like a vacation in Hawaii in 2014. We didn’t get but a couple cloudy days the entire season.

 

The lack of snow caused low river levels, warm water, and the fish to run early. The kings showed up in early May with the first Kings caught in Subsistence nets the first week of May (Normally a late May to early June event). The subsistence nets were full of 30- and 40-pound kings by the first week of June. The sonar fish counting station was not open until mid-June, so the total number of kings that ran will never be known but the locals had never seen so many huge kings fill their nets.

 

 

The fishing early season was among the best we have seen in the middle June time frame, with 60 per boat many days. Big kings, in big numbers, in beautiful sunny weather, what a blast. Though big fish were caught all season, late June saw the most 40-plus-pounders landed and that normally happens in July. We were catching sockeye in June and so many char it became a common and daily event. By early July the fishing slowed, and July, which is normally our better fishing for the large kings, was slower by Nushagak standards but still better than any other river anywhere. Everyone continued filling their tags and releasing plenty of fish to spawn, but it was not what we were used to the Nushagak producing.

Based on the incredible spawn numbers from the years of 2011 and 2012 the next couple of seasons should be phenomenal years for fishing on the Nushagak.

We hope you can join us in 2015.

jakesalaska.com

(713) 865-3932 mobile

(866) 692-9085 toll free

 

 

 

From the SMH Department

This isn’t Alaska news, but it’s bear news and Alaskans understand more than anyone that they’re sharing their beloved state with these remarkable creatures. That’s what makes this story cringe-worthy.

CONCORD, N.H. – New Hampshire’s bear expert is proposing to eliminate the use of chocolate as bait after four bears were found dead at one trapping site due to a chocolate overdose.

The bears – two female adults and two cubs – were found dead within 50 feet of where a hunter had put down 90 pounds of chocolate and doughnuts as bait in September, The Concord Monitor reported.

A necropsy and toxicology reports performed at the University of New Hampshire confirmed they died of heart failure caused by theobromine, a toxic ingredient in chocolate.

The best way to stop this from happening again is to remove chocolate from the woods, Andrew Timmins, the state Fish and Game Department’s bear project leader, told a commission meeting Wednesday.

The possibility that bears could die from eating chocolate caught the department’s attention in 2011, after the death of a black bear cub in Michigan was linked to theobromine.

Timmins said the amount of theobromine varies by type of chocolate used, but all can be toxic depending on how much an animal eats.

“We view bear baiting as an important management tool,” he said. “It’s not something we want to go get rid of, but perhaps some modifications need to be made to determine bear baiting practices to eliminate the chances of chocolate poisoning our wildlife.”

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Sometimes, the world makes absolutely no sense to me.