Category Archives: Featured Content

Preparing For 2014 Bristol Bay Sockeye Season

The sockeye salmon season in the Bristol Bay area will kick off in early summer, and here’s an audio report from Mike Mason of KDLG radio in Dillingham, posted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Among Mason’s report, when he spoke with ADFG area biologist Paul Salomone, who oversees the area that includes the Egekik River:

* In anticipation of an early run, ADFG plans to put together counting towers earlier than normal in the Egegik.

* ADFG anticipates the Egegik sockeye run at around 4.65 million, with an escapement goal of anywhere between 800,000 to 1.4 million fish.

Mason also provided an update on the Ugashik River District in an interview with Salomone.

 

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Washington fishing outfit pleads guilty to illegal fishing charges in Alaska

That’s a lot of lingcod: 11,000 pounds worth caught illegally in the Gulf of Alaska by a Washington-based group, Fisherman’s Finest LLC. The Alaska State Troopers Wildlife Division found that the company had retained 11,000 pounds of a total 56,000 pounds of fish caught in 2010 and 2011. But the intent was not deemed to be malicious, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Here are the nut graphs of the Daily News story:

In July 2010 and 2011, investigators said, the F/V US Intrepid harvested more than 56,000 pounds of lingcod in the eastern Gulf of Alaska, which is state water. At the time, the company was operating under federal regulations as a test rockfish fishery, said Sgt. Brent Johnson, the investigating officer on the case.

The majority of the lingcod was released, but 11,000 pounds was retained and sold commercially, troopers said. Under federal guidelines, such activity was legal, but the state retains management control of that particular species, Johnson said.

Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2014/04/22/3436482/company-pleads-guilty-to-illegal.html#storylink=cpy
Fisherman’s Finest pleaded guilty to the charges and will pay a fine of $12,500 ($2,500 suspended), plus be on probation for three years and pay a forfeiture of just over $10,000 for the value of the lingcod haul that was kept.

Hunters, Anglers Blast 5 US Senators Who Want To Strip EPA From Regulating Pebble Mine

By Andy Walgamott, on April 16th, 2014

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE SPORTSMAN’S ALLIANCE FOR ALASKA

Today, 14 leading sportsmen’s and conservation groups expressed their strong opposition to the Regulatory Fairness Act, which would halt the EPA’s efforts to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska from the proposed Pebble Mine. The groups sent a letter outlining their concerns to the co-sponsors of the legislation, which include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) and Sens. David Vitter (LA), Joe Manchin (WV), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and James Risch (ID). These groups are some of over 1,000 sportsmen’s organizations and businesses that have written the EPA in support of its efforts to protect Bristol Bay.

From the letter: It was with great disappointment that we read your recent legislation to eliminate the EPA’s current work to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska for future generations of hunters and anglers. Stopping the Pebble Mine at Bristol Bay’s headwaters is one of the top priorities for the sportsmen community across the U.S.; a fact that we hope is not lost on Senators who represent not only many sportsmen, but some of the best hunting and fishing areas in the country. While we do not always agree with the EPA or its actions, in the case of Bristol Bay, the EPA is acting to protect productive fish and game habitat, thousands of jobs, and $1.5 billion in annual economic impact.”

“The development of a massive surface mine such as Pebble and its likely impacts on the waters and fish and wildlife resources of Bristol Bay, Alaska, have been thoroughly analyzed through the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment,” said Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The EPA’s undertaking of the 404(c) review process is the next logical step under the Clean Water Act which is needed and justified to ensure the conservation of the unique resources of Bristol Bay.”

The Regulatory Fairness Act would prohibit the EPA from using its Clean Water Act Section 404(c) authority to restrict permits at “any time” that a particular development will have an “unacceptable adverse effect” on America’s waterways or fisheries. In the case of the proposed Pebble Mine, the EPA’s exhaustive 3-year peer-reviewed scientific study found that even without a catastrophic accident it will destroy up to 94 miles of salmon spawning streams and 5,350 acres of wetlands, lakes, and ponds in the Bristol Bay region. In February, the EPA began the 404(c) process to determine the best way to protect Bristol Bay from the Pebble Mine.

“The legislation these Senators are supporting runs directly counter to one of the top priorities for hunters and anglers from across the U.S.,” said Scott Hed, Director of Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska. “We’ve heard from thousands that Bristol Bay is worth protecting; now is not the time to halt the EPA’s thorough process in protecting this sportsman’s paradise.”

Groups signing the letter include:

American Fly Fishing Trade Association
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
Berkley Conservation Institute
Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance
Campfire Club of America
Dallas Safari Club
Delta Waterfowl Foundation
International Federation of Fly Fishers
National Wildlife Federation
Orion – The Hunters Institute
Pope and Young Club
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Union Sportsmen’s Alliance
Wildlife Forever

House Bill 77 Thrown Out

Eli Huffman of Jake’s Nushagak Salmon Camp sent us this:

 

 

Greetings!

We have some big news to share today:

Yesterday, after months of dedicated phone calls, emails, testimony and frustration, HB77 died in committee. This bill threatened the water rights of individual Alaskans and would have removed the voice of the Alaskan public from important natural resource decisions. Because of the overwhelming response and testimony from you, HB77 will not make it to the floor for a vote.

 

Thank you for your help in stopping HB77!

 

The overwhelming public response to this legislation demonstrates Alaskans’ unwavering passion for our salmon, wildlife and natural resources. We will continue to stay involved and in contact with our representatives in Juneau. We predict similar legislation may be introduced again next year, but as we’ve so clearly demonstrated, we have the power to speak up and fight to protect our renewable resources. We will continue our work to ensure the protection of Alaska’s hunting and fishing resources. Please check our website for updates on this important news.

 

 

ADFG’s King Salmon Assessment

From the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

 

Chinook Salmon Research Initiative

Chinook salmon swimming underwater

(ADFG photo)

Chinook (king) salmon have been returning in fewer numbers to many Alaska rivers, requiring painful restrictions on fisheries that harvest these stocks. Widespread shortfalls became apparent during the 2007 fishing season, but scientists date the onset of the declines with the poor survivals of the offspring from 2001. Chinook salmon have a life span of 3 to 8 years, with 5 and 6 year olds being especially important to the health of a Chinook salmon population.

In October of 2012, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) hosted a research symposium to “identify key knowledge gaps and assemble a list of research priorities” to better understand the factors affecting Chinook salmon abundance in Alaska.

Following this symposium, a team of ADF&G scientists and biologists, in collaboration with federal agencies and academic partners, developed a research plan with recommended studies to address the questions identified in the gap analysis. The first phase in the implementation of this plan was funded by the Alaska Legislature during its 2013 session. The core of the plan is stock specific, life history-based research focused on 12 indicator stocks from across Alaska. For more information see the Chinook Salmon Stock Assessment and Research Plan

This research will cover multiple years and produce a large body of findings and reports. Research efforts fall into four general categories.

  • Stock assessment programs targeting specific knowledge gaps on individual, indicator stocks.
  • Compilation of local and traditional knowledge regarding Chinook salmon trends in abundance, distribution, and physical appearance.
  • Research on juvenile Chinook salmon in the near shore marine environment, which is thought to be a critical life history stage, and one little studied.
  • Life history process studies intended to examine a range of environmental factors affecting Chinook salmon growth and productivity.

 

The department recognizes the Alaskan public has a keen interest in the Chinook salmon research being conducted and ADF&G has developed this special section of its website, where information will be provided about the Chinook Salmon Research Initiative. The Chinook Salmon Initiative section of the website will change as new information is added and you may want to bookmark this section of the website so you can return to it easily to check for new information.

No Games Of Drones On Hunts

Admittedly, I don’t know a ton about drones, but I found this report interesting about the use of them for hunters in Alaska. Actually it’s more past than current tense. Here’s a little bit from the Anchorage Daily News:

A drone system allowing a hunter or helper to locate game now costs only about $1,000, said Capt. Bernard Chastain, operations commander for the Wildlife Troopers. Because of advances in the technology and cheaper prices, it is inevitable hunters seeking an advantage would, for example, try to use a drone to fly above trees or other obstacles and look for a moose or bear to shoot, he said.

“Under hunting regulations, unless it specifically says that it’s illegal, you’re allowed to do it,” Chastain said. “What happens a lot of times is technology gets way ahead of regulations, and the hunting regulations don’t get a chance to catch up for quite a while.”

Troopers brought up the issue with game board members in February after hearing about a drone-assisted moose kill in Interior Alaska in 2012, Chastain said. That moose hunt was reported to troopers by state Department of Fish and Game staff, the trooper captain said, but there were few details about it, because the moose kill was apparently legal and troopers did not investigate it.

“I think more than anything, the change in the law represents thoughts that we’ve heard for several years, and based upon how the regulations are written, we had to take an affirmative step to make those illegal,” Chastain said.

Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2014/03/23/3389846/drone-assisted-hunting-to-be-illegal.html#storylink=cpy

 

Exxon Valdez spill: 25 years later

Tugboats tow the Exxon Valdez off Bligh Reef to a harbor for repair and salvage efforts, two weeks after the beginning of the oil disaster. The tanker changed names and owners several times, and was bought in 2012 by an Indian company, which scraps ships for steel and spare parts.Tugboats 
 Photo by Getty Images
 Has it been 25 years already? The tragedy of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez oil all over the waters surrounding the port sharing the city’s name still is having an impact on Valdez and Prince William Sound, as this CNN report states:

Persistent oil poisoning, and a cascade of ecological effects, continue. There’s not much we can do now for Prince William Sound, short of protecting it from more harm. But we can keep from repeating our mistakes elsewhere. This is, after all, why we pay attention to history.

Unfortunately, we still haven’t learned the biggest lesson of all from the Exxon Valdez oil spill: The only real solution is to stop using so much oil.

Whether it’s Prince William Sound or the Gulf of Mexico, seldom is more than 10% of the spilled oil recovered. This will be especially true in Arctic waters. And regardless of how safe we make oil drilling, tankers, or pipelines, we’ll never reduce spill risk to zero.

But the larger reason to reduce our dependence on oil is this: Even if we as a society don’t care about oil spills destroying natural environments, we’ve got to care — eventually we will all care — about how burning this oil is destroying our environment through climate change.

As the south coast of Alaska struggles to recover from one spill a quarter of a century later, Alaska’s polar bears are drowning from lack of Arctic sea ice.

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An event like this one provides damning evidence that you never full recover from such a traumatic accident with a quarter-century’s worth of long-term ramifications. Life goes on, but it never stays the same.

 

 

 

$4.1 Billion Is A Lot Of Bucks (And Bulls, too)

Photo by Tom Reale

Photo by Tom Reale

 

So this is why Alaskans are so concerned about all things hunting and fishing. From the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

Press Release: March 13, 2014

Contact: Maria Gladziszewski, Assistant Director, Division of Wildlife Conservation, Juneau, (907) 465-4114

Wildlife Interests Worth $4.1 Billion to Alaska’s Economy, New Study Finds

(Juneau) – Almost a million resident and visitor households embarked on at least one trip in Alaska to hunt or view wildlife in 2011, according to research presented in the recently published report, “The Economic Importance of Alaska’s Wildlife in 2011.” Along the way, the $3.4 billion spent by those hunters and viewers accounted for $4.1 billion in economic activity statewide.

“Visitors reported that wildlife is one of the main reasons they visited Alaska,” said Doug Vincent-Lang, director of the state’s Division of Wildlife Conservation, “and residents said wildlife contributes to their quality of life and reasons for living here.”

Of the $3.4 billion spent by hunters and wildlife viewers in Alaska in 2011, resident hunters and wildlife viewers each spent more than $1 billion. Visiting wildlife viewers spent $1.2 billion, while visiting hunters added some $150 million. That spending generated more than 27,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in labor income.

“This study demonstrates what many instinctively know: Alaska’s wildlife is important to Alaskans and visitors. Because people value it, they’re willing to spend a lot of money here to hunt, view, and experience wildlife,” Vincent-Lang said.

The report will be featured in a presentation at the Alaska Board of Game meeting on Friday, March 14, at the Dena’ina Civic Center in Anchorage, and the public is invited to attend.

The research was conducted by economic consulting firm ECONorthwest, which gathered core data for its analyses through six interlocking surveys in 2012. The surveys were conducted by phone, Internet, and mail and information was provided by about 7,000 residents and 2,000 visitors.

To see the report summary, visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website atwww.adfg.alaska.gov/static/home/news/ongoingissues/pdfs/the-economic-importance-of-alaskas-wildlife-in-2011-summary-report.pdf (PDF 1,204 kB)

 

 

EPA Kicks Off Bristol Bay Protection Plan

The Nushagak River's salmon run is among the Bristol Bay fisheries the EPA is vowing to protect from the Pebble Mine project. (BRIAN LULL)

The Nushagak River’s salmon run is among the Bristol Bay fisheries the EPA is vowing to protect from the Pebble Mine project. (BRIAN LULL)

By Chris Cocoles

UPDATE: State of Washington U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell, who spoke at last month’s stop the mine rally at Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal, and Patty Murray, praised the EPA’s announcement:

Here’s Cantwell’s reaction:

“I applaud this action today to protect Northwest fishing jobs from being destroyed by the largest open pit mine in North America,” said Cantwell. “Washington and Alaska fishermen depend on Bristol Bay for their livelihoods. Ruining headwaters with mining pollution is too big a risk to existing jobs in Pacific Northwest.

“Today, the administration is saying that potential gold mining is not more important than a $1.5 billion sockeye fishing industry. Gold might be an valuable commodity but it’s not more important than Pacific Northwest salmon.

“Wild salmon populations already face a number of threats,” Cantwell added. “Adding mining pollution to the spawning ground for the world’s number one sockeye salmon fishery doesn’t make economic sense. Mining pollution could threaten 14,000 fishing jobs and a critical food source that subsistence fishermen depend on. I will work hard to ensure that fishermen have a voice as the 404C process moves forward. We cannot afford to put thousands of fishing jobs at risk.”

The mining company, Northern Dynasty Minerals, also released a statement, which reads, in part:

“For a wide range of reasons, we remain confident that final decisions about Pebble will be made by federal and state regulators working within the rigorous National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) permitting process, and not unilaterally and pre-emptively by EPA,” said Ron Thiessen, President & CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. “We will participate fully in EPA’s process to consider necessary safeguards to ensure that responsible mineral development can co-exist with clean water and healthy fisheries in Bristol Bay, and we will continue our efforts to prepare for the NEPA permitting process to come.”

Thiessen said both EPA and the Peer Reviewers they contracted to review the Bristol Bay Assessment have acknowledged that their study is insufficient as a foundation for regulatory decision-making with respect to the Pebble Project. In response to Peer Review comments on theBristol Bay Assessment, EPA states: “The assessment is not intended to duplicate or replace a regulatory process”…and “We agree that a more detailed assessment of direct and indirect impacts of mining…will have to be done as part of the NEPA and permitting processes.”

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The Environmental Protection Agency, which last month released its extensive Bristol Bay/Pebble Mine report on the potential ramifications to the salmon industry there in the event of a mining mishap, announced today it’s beginning the process of helping to protect what’s known as “The World’s Last Great Salmon Fishery.”

Here’s the EPA’s complete press release:

(Washington, D.C.—Feb. 28, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is initiating a process under the Clean Water Act to identify appropriate options to protect the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, Alaska from the potentially destructive impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine. The Pebble Mine has the potential to be one of the largest open pit copper mines ever developed and could threaten a salmon resource rare in its quality and productivity. During this process, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot approve a permit for the mine. 

This action, requested by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, reflects the unique nature of the Bristol Bay watershed as one of the world’s last prolific wild salmon resources and the threat posed by the Pebble deposit, a mine unprecedented in scope and scale. It does not reflect an EPA policy change in mine permitting. 

“Extensive scientific study has given us ample reason to believe that the Pebble Mine would likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “It’s why EPA is taking this step forward in our effort to ensure protection for the world’s most productive salmon fishery from the risks it faces from what could be one of the largest open pit mines on earth. This process is not something the Agency does very often, but Bristol Bay is an extraordinary and unique resource.”

The EPA is basing its action on available information, including data collected as a part of the agency’s Bristol Bay ecological risk assessment and mine plans submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Today, Dennis McLerran, EPA Regional Administrator for EPA Region 10, sent letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Alaska, and the Pebble Partnership initiating action under EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 404(c) authorities.

“Bristol Bay is an extraordinary natural resource, home to some of the most abundant salmon producing rivers in the world. The area provides millions of dollars in jobs and food resources for Alaska Native Villages and commercial fishermen,” McLerran said. “The science EPA reviewed paints a clear picture: Large-scale copper mining of the Pebble deposit would likely result in significant and irreversible harm to the salmon and the people and industries that rely on them.”

Today’s action follows the January 2014 release of EPA’s “Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska,” a study that documents the significant ecological resources of the region and the potentially destructive impacts to salmon and other fish from potential large-scale copper mining of the Pebble Deposit. The assessment indicates that the proposed Pebble Mine would likely cause irreversible destruction of streams that support salmon and other important fish species, as well as extensive areas of wetlands, ponds and lakes. 

In 2010, several Bristol Bay Alaska Native tribes requested that EPA take action under Clean Water Act Section 404(c) to protect the Bristol Bay watershed and salmon resources from development of the proposed Pebble Mine, a venture backed by Northern Dynasty Minerals. The Bristol Bay watershed is home to 31 Alaska Native Villages. Residents of the area depend on salmon as a major food resource and for their economic livelihood, with nearly all residents participating in subsistence fishing. 

Bristol Bay produces nearly 50 percent of the world’s wild sockeye salmon with runs averaging 37.5 million fish each year. The salmon runs are highly productive due in large part to the exceptional water quality in streams and wetlands, which provide valuable salmon habitat. 

The Bristol Bay ecosystem generates hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and provides employment for over 14,000 full and part-time workers. The region supports all five species of Pacific salmon found in North America: sockeye, coho, Chinook, chum, and pink. In addition, it is home to more than 20 other fish species, 190 bird species, and more than 40 terrestrial mammal species, including bears, moose, and caribou. 

Based on information provided by The Pebble Partnership and Northern Dynasty Minerals, mining the Pebble deposit may involve excavation of a pit up to one mile deep and over 2.5 miles wide — the largest open pit ever constructed in North America. Disposal of mining waste may require construction of three or more massive earthen tailings dams as high as 650 feet. The Pebble deposit is located at the headwaters of Nushagak and Kvichak rivers, which produce about half of the sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay. 

The objective of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. The Act emphasizes protecting uses of the nation’s waterways, including fishing. 

The Clean Water Act generally requires a permit under Section 404 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before any person places dredge or fill material into wetlands, lakes and streams. Mining operations typically involve such activities and must obtain Clean Water Act Section 404 permits. Section 404 directs EPA to develop the environmental criteria the Army Corps uses to make permit decisions. It also authorizes EPA to prohibit or restrict fill activities if EPA determines such actions would have unacceptable adverse effects on fishery areas.

The steps in the Clean Water Act Section 404(c) review process are:

  • Step 1 – Consultation period with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and owners of the site, initiated today.
  • Step 2 – Publication of Proposed Determination, including proposed prohibitions or restrictions on mining the Pebble deposit, in Federal Register for public comment and one or more public hearings.
  • Step 3 – Review of public comments and development of Recommended Determination by EPA Regional Administrator to Assistant Administrator for Water at EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
  • Step 4 – Second consultation period with the Army Corps and site owners and development of Final Determination by Assistant Administrator for Water, including any final prohibitions or restrictions on mining the Pebble deposit.

Based on input EPA receives during any one of these steps, the agency could decide that further review under Section 404(c) is not necessary.

Now that the 404(c) process has been initiated, the Army Corps cannot issue a permit for fill in wetlands or streams associated with mining the Pebble deposit until EPA completes the 404(c) review process. 

EPA has received over 850,000 requests from citizens, tribes, Alaska Native corporations, commercial and sport fisherman, jewelry companies, seafood processors, restaurant owners, chefs, conservation organizations, members of the faith community, sport recreation business owners, elected officials and others asking EPA to take action to protect Bristol Bay.

The EPA also sent out a letter to Thomas Collier, president of Pebble Partner Limited; Joe Balash, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources; and Col. Joseph Lestochi of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that “initiates review under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act of potential adverse environmental effects associated with mining the Pebble deposit in southwest Alaska.”