Category Archives: Featured Content

Lower 48 Men Die In Tragic Accident

Rough seas 2

PHOTO BY JEFF LUND 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

July 4 Marathon Madness

Happy Fourth of July all!

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

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

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

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

 

First up: Steve Meyer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your holiday!

Approaching the finish line! (KRYSTIN BABLINSKAS)

Approaching the finish line! (KRYSTIN BABLINSKAS)

Alaska State Troopers Reality Show Being Pulled

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

From the Alaska Dispatch:

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALASKA STATE TROOPERS

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALASKA STATE TROOPERS

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

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

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

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

 

King Salmon Anglers Can Keep One Kenai Fish

PHOTO BY CORBY WEYHMILLER

PHOTO BY CORBY WEYHMILLER

 

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

From the Anchorage Daily News : 

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

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

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

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

 

The Fight Against Farmed Salmon

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

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

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

BY CHRIS COCOLES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it is triggering outrage from wild salmon supporters.

 

Filming off the Canadian coast. (A FISHY TALE)

Filming off the Canadian coast. (A FISHY TALE)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A British Columbia fish farm. (A FISHY TALE)

A British Columbia fish farm. (A FISHY TALE)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Biologists Remove Bears For Subsistence Hunters

Photo by Tom Reale

Photo by Tom Reale

 

Moose meat is a need for subsistence hunters in the Alaskan Interior. So state wildlife biologists made the decision to shoot 64 bears (54 black bears and 10 grizzlies) in the Kuskokwim River area with the intention of maintaining the moose population for hunters who depend on the moose available to hunt.

From the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

It was the second year of a two-year predator control project requested by local villagers and endorsed by the Alaska Board of Game. Last year, biologists killed 89 bears (84 black and five grizzly) in what state wildlife officials called the “Bear Control Focus Area,” a 534-square mile area of state and private lands in game management unit 19A.

The area covers only a small part of the unit, which encompasses nearly 10,000 square miles upriver from Aniak in the western Interior. It is located along and south of the Kuskokwim River in what wildlife officials say used to be the best moose hunting are area in the unit.

But the moose population in unit 19A has declined in recent years and residents in villages have not been able to harvest moose in much of the unit for several years and much of the unit has been closed to hunting since 2006 because of low moose numbers, ADFG officials said in a news release issued Thursday.

 

Here’s the full ADFG release:

Unit 19A Predator Control Program Provides Meat for Western Interior Villages

Department of Fish and Game staff conducted the second year of a two-year predator control program May 13-24 in Unit 19A designed to increase the number and harvest of moose in the unit. The program was approved by the Board of Game at the request of local hunters concerned about low moose numbers.

ADF&G Staff members removed a total of 64 bears (54 black bears and 10 grizzlies) in the “Bear Control Focus Area,” 534 square miles of state and private lands within Game Management Unit 19A. Unit 19A encompasses nearly 10,000 square miles upriver from Aniak in western interior Alaska. The Bear Control Focus Area is located along and south of the Kuskokwim River in what formerly was the best moose hunting area in the Unit.

A total of 89 bears (84 black and 5 grizzly) were removed in the program in 2013. No sows with cubs were taken last year, but two black bear sows with cubs of the year were taken this spring.

Data collected this spring show excellent calf survival this past year, and more information will be available after moose composition surveys scheduled for November are completed.

“It’s too early for conclusions, but things look very good so far,” said Regional Management Coordinator Roy Nowlin.

Research in McGrath indicated that bear numbers should recover to pre-control levels within 5-7 years.

Residents of ten western Interior villages in Unit 19A received nearly three tons of bear meat as the result of the bear control program valued at approximately $60,000. More than four tons of meat was shared in the villages last year.

Department staff shot bears from a helicopter and brought them to Sleetmute, where the carcasses were skinned and meat was cut and placed in game bags. Department staff distributed the meat to the villages of Aniak, Chuathbaluk, Crooked Creek, Lime Village, Kalskag, Lower Kalskag, McGrath, Red Devil, Sleetmute, and Stony River.

“Again this year, local people really appreciated the meat,” said Nowlin. Hides of the smaller bears were also distributed to village residents. The larger hides will be sold at the annual auction of bears taken in defense of life or property.

The predator control program was designed with input from local residents and Fish and Game Advisory Committee members who support the effort. The moose population in Unit 19A is far below what the habitat can support, and data indicate that predation is preventing moose numbers from increasing and meeting the population and harvest objectives established by the Board of Game. People have not been able to harvest moose in much of the unit for several years and hunting opportunity is extremely limited. Much of Unit 19A has been closed to moose hunting since 2006.

A wolf control program has been in effect in the Unit since 2004, but reducing only wolf numbers has not had a measurable effect on moose numbers. Research conducted in nearby Unit 19D near McGrath indicated that control of both wolves and bears is necessary to achieve a more timely increase in the number of moose.

Because the Focus Area is a relatively small part of the unit, removing black bears and grizzly bears from within it will have only a minor effect on the black and grizzly bear populations in all of Unit 19A, and will not negatively impact the sustainability of either black or grizzly bear populations.

The Department considered many other management options besides predator control. Hunting and trapping seasons for bears and wolves were liberalized, but harvests didn’t increase enough to reduce predator populations. Public control of bears using public permits to snare bears was considered, but public snaring programs elsewhere in the state have not been successful. Live-capture and moving bears was also considered, but cost and a lack of publicly acceptable release sites are prohibitive.

 

 

Bear Attack Survivor’s Harrowing Tale

Photo by Tom Reale

Photo by Tom Reale

 

 

A young Alaskan woman played dead during a frightening bear attack. 

From Yahoo news:

The bear knocked Gamboa down, then picked her up and threw her to the ground. The bear went on to pummel Gamboa several times more with her powerful paws.

Throughout the May 18 attack, Gamboa lay in a fetal position and remained silent.

That action likely saved her life.

“I actually can’t even believe this actually really happened,” the 25-year-old woman said in a videotaped interview released by the Army on Thursday. “It seems still surreal, just for the fact that I’m still alive — seems unreal. “

In the interview taped Tuesday at her hospital bed, Gamboa said she surrendered herself to the bear during the attack at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage after she encountered the animal and her two cubs. Gamboa, of Sacramento, California, is married to a soldier assigned at the base to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.

A Closeup Look At Alaska Wildfire

A spruce grouse navigates through the charred remnants of the Funny River Fire on the Kenai Peninsula. (PHOTO BY GARTH BILDERBACK)

A spruce grouse navigates through the charred remnants of the Funny River Fire on the Kenai Peninsula. (PHOTO BY GARTH BILDERBACK)

 

The  Funny River fire has burned 156,000 acres of Kenai Peninsula land, prompting 600 firefighters into action to help slow down the blaze that, per the Anchorage Daily News, jumped the Kenai River over the holiday weekend. Our frequent contributors, Steve Meyer and Christine Cunningham, live in the area and have been assisting their friends coping with the dangers of a spreading wildfire. Steve was kind enough to send us an update:

The fire to this point has been as close to the “perfect storm” as one could hope for. For the past 15 years the central and northern sections of the Kenai Peninsula have been a tinderbox. That there would be a fire was of no question, it was only a matter of when. Originally the powers that be stated it was started from a campfire that was not properly doused but then stated perhaps not and, it was still under investigation.  The Kenai does occasionally have lightening, which has started fires in years gone by but there were no lightening incidents at the time this one started so it is almost assuredly caused by human interaction. For this fire to go on for eight days without injury and at this point, no verified structure damage is nothing short of astonishing. The fire-fighting effort by Central Emergency Services, State Division of Forestry, the Canadian water bomber plains, National Guard helicopters and all of the volunteer assistance from local residents has been remarkable.

Social media has been the most up to date source of information for people and Brad Nelson, the communications fella with Central Emergency Services has done an amazing job of tireless reporting on their site keeping people informed. Numerous posts enlisting help of one sort or another have been posted and instantly there is more help available than needed. Even people from the Palmer/Wasilla area have volunteered their support. Local businesses have donated rooms for people evacuated from homes, pet care has been provided. The fire crews have had some shortages of personal things like socks and toothpaste and people are instantly providing these items.  It has been a real heartwarming display of what can be done by people who care about their fellows.

At present, Monday evening (5 pm), the western flank (Kasilof area) seems to be secure. The northeastern flank is having some issues primarily due to a south wind that built up yesterday and blew cinders across the Kenai River. At the fire briefing this morning there were unconfirmed losses of several recreational cabins north of the Kenai River near the Killey River junction to the Kenai. On Monday the wind died down some, but it has picked back up again and this evening will likely produce expansion of the fire to the north.

People are concerned about wildlife loss in the fire. Most do not understand that even when moving rapidly a fire does not travel more than about ¾ mph. Wildlife easily remove themselves from the path, but of course there will be some loss of bird nests and any small animal young that are still in the nesting stages.

The eastern flank of the fire, which is towards the Kenai Mountains where there is no human habitation, has been largely ignored. It will burn out when it runs out of fuel on the mountain slopes.

The upside is the fire has not harmed anyone and frankly was long overdue. Wildlife in the area will benefit as they do in the aftermath of virtually all wildfires. New growth will sprout and the area will once again be the magnificent habitat it has been in years’ past. This fire could return the Kenai to the most prolific moose habitat in the world, as it once was.

The future is uncertain for the northern Kenai Peninsula. It too is a tinderbox waiting for a spark; depending on wind conditions when it happens, it could also spark a blaze, and the odds say it will be catastrophic. The current fire may promote some aggressive fire management from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, but that seems unlikely. They take a “natural diversity” stance and have been remiss in doing any real fire control work in the area. Rain is predicted for Tuesday afternoon and possibly Wednesday, but the peninsula is so dry at this point, it will take much more than a shower to have a significant effect on the current fire or the potential for future fire incidents. Alaska is unique in its ability to dry itself practically immediately after a good rain.

Here is the web address for CES, probably the most up-to-date and accurate information available on the fire: https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/groups/219062911462753/

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Much thanks to Steve and Christine, and here’s hoping everyone stays safe.

 

 

Salmon Landing At SeaTac

Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines

Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines

An Alaska Airlines flight that landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had quite a distinguished passenger list: the first haul of Copper River king salmon.

As part of an annual event sponsored by Alaska Air Cargo, the plane was full of Copper salmon ready to be distributed to area restaurants, grocery stores, etc. was delivered at SeaTac.

From Market Watch:

At least five more Alaska Airlines flights today will transport salmon from Cordova, Alaska, to Anchorage, Seattle and throughout the United States. The flights will have fresh fish from three Alaska seafood processors: Copper River Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods and Trident Seafoods.

Alaska Airlines plays a significant role in supporting the Alaska seafood industry, which is recognized worldwide for its sustainable fishing practices. Last year, the carrier flew more than 24.5 million pounds of fresh Alaska seafood to the Lower 48 states and beyond, including 1 million pounds of Copper River salmon.

“No other airline delivers more Copper River salmon to the Lower 48 than Alaska Airlines, and making that happen within 24 hours after the fish is pulled from the water is no small feat,” said Betsy Bacon, managing director of Alaska Air Cargo. “Hundreds of employees from across the state of Alaska, Seattle and beyond spend months getting ready for the busy summer fish season.”

The annual tradition is part of the Copper Chef Cook-Off that involves local restaurants showing off their best salmon dishes.

60 Minutes Takes On Salmon Farms vs. Wild Salmon

We’re working on a profile on the upcoming salmon documentary, A Fishy Tale, that will run in our June issue. The argument that producer Sara Pozonsky is trying to convey in her film is the surplus of salmon fish farms in British Columbia and the alleged threat they might pose for wild salmon swimming in the adjacent waters. Pozonsky is hoping her film will be released fall, and 60 Minutes weighed in on the controversy with a report on Sunday night.

Here’s a link to last night’s episode, and if you missed it, it’s a very informative segment by Dr. Sanjay Gupta.