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Brothers In Arms

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The following appears in the April issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:

BY BJORN DIHLE

Last summer, my little brother Reid was faced with a tough decision. His first child’s due date was Aug. 1, which also happened to be opening day for Sitka blacktail deer.

This meant he was going to have to be real tricky and risk his marriage if he wanted to get out after a buck. I suggested sneaking into the mountains for a morning hunt and returning in time to feed his newborn raw-deer heart. He was philosophical, even superstitious about the predicament.

“It will be a boy; I’ll name him Ruger Olaf Dihle and he will become the greatest hunter ever,” Reid said.

The summer passed quickly and his wife Meghan’s belly plumped up like a blueberry. Luke, our older brother, had been dreaming of little other than opening day since he’d finished his hunting season the previous winter. He’s kind of the John Lennon of meat hunters, the sort of guy who dreams big, needs two giant freezers and has a fan base of young girls (his three daughters). His girls are more efficient at butchering and processing fish and game than the majority of outdoorsmen, including me. It’s always a little embarrassing when a 7-year-old shows you up filleting a salmon on the docks.

Generally speaking, Luke can talk Reid into doing anything when it comes to hunting. For example, let’s say there’s a mountain goat three mountains over, a blizzard coming and little chance of the two guys finding their way back to the tent – quite possibly for several days. And throw in a sexually frustrated Sasquatch, a few KGB hitmen and a series of vertical cliffs that would liquefy the bowels of most professional mountaineers. Luke would still want to make the stalk. With a few grunts, he’d convince Reid into going and I’d sit at the tent drinking whiskey, eating Cheez-Its and getting weird.

So, it was a bit of a disturbing surprise when Reid decided not to join us on the annual Aug. 1 foray.

Whatever happened to putting family first?

Luke is obsessed with mountain goats – they’re his favorite animals to hunt. It’s gotten so bad that whenever I walk into his house I feel like I’m entering some sort of pagan ritual. There are horns all over and sometimes he and his wife Trish are dressed up like goats. For years he’s wanted to pull a doubleheader, first making a goat hunt on the mainland south of Juneau. Afterwards, if we had luck, he wanted to put the meat in a tote of ice on his boat and jaunt up a mountain on Admiralty Island for Sitka blacktails. I, as the token fat guy on our hunts, am horrified and exhausted just thinking about this. Under the guise of being a good brother, I suggested we do one or the other hunt, and then try to be back in town for the birth of Reid and Meghan’s baby. I was, after all, Meghan’s substitute birthing coach. I took the job very seriously and had stocked up on 40s of Steele Reserve, barf bags, a mixed CD of meditation music and a variety of Little Debbie tasty snacks, mostly to make the whole process more enjoyable for myself.

 

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IF THE WEATHER WAS good, we’d climb high and try for goats. If the weather was marginal, we’d clamber up a smaller mountain and go after deer. And if we were lucky, the baby would be late and we’d make it back in time to pretend we’re good brothers.

On July 31, after drinking a cup of coffee, I shouldered my pack and walked down to the South Douglas boat launch to meet Luke. Meghan’s contractions were becoming more regular, and I had a suspicion that it would not be long. Nonetheless, we tore off onto a flat ocean.

We were cowboys, maybe even desperadoes – the sort of men who drink kale smoothies and occasionally leave the toilet seat up to spite our ladies. We kept a sharp lookout in the fog and steady rain, as there are plenty of things like icebergs, deadheads, rocks, whales and other boats to run into in Stephens Passage. Humpback whales appeared for a few moments like giant gray ghosts before sounding back into the depths. Loons, surf scoters and Harlequin ducks skimmed over the ocean and then conglomerated in large raucous rafts. Salmon, on their way to spawn in streams and rivers, leapt constantly into the air. Gradually, the fog began to lift, revealing the rainforest and mountains of Admiralty Island.

“Going after a goat would be iffy,” I said, staring up at heavy clouds clinging to the mountains on the mainland. Rain drummed the canvas top of Luke’s skiff.

“Yeah, we might just be sitting in the clouds for days. You want to give Admiralty a try?” Luke asked.

While I enjoy hunting and eating those white monarchs of the mountains, I’d rather chase deer. An August buck, if the meat is properly cared for, is delectable. I’d been drooling for a month or more just thinking about the first venison of the year. I nodded, and we slowly putted past a reef and entered a large bay. Inquisitive harbor seals circled the boat as Luke anchored. I studied brown bear, deer, mink and otter tracks crisscrossing the tidal flats.

The easiest place to hang and stash our gear was in a small stand of spruce trees near a salmon stream. We hoisted our deflated raft as high as we could above a couple well-used bear beds. After pissing around the tree – hoping to discourage any bruins from doing too thorough of a job investigating – we hiked along bear trails through a series of meadows. And we knew there were bears there.

Admiralty Island is the paradigm of Southeast Alaskan wilderness. Its true name is Kootznoowoo, which in Tlingit means something like “fortress of the brown bear.” The Russians called it Fear Island. At 100 miles long by about 25 miles wide, many believe it has the densest population of brown bears in the world, at one per square mile. Annually, around 50 bears are killed on the island by sport hunters. The hunters target big males, which isn’t thought to negatively affect the population. Males kill cubs and subadults to eat and bring females into estrus, so some say it may even help. I’m hesitant to drink that Kool-Aid but will vouch that there definitely appears to be no shortage of bears on the island.

Many people are surprised to learn that Admiralty has only one documented case of a bear killing a person, a timber cruiser in Eliza Harbor in 1929, after he startled and shot it. Nonetheless, Luke and I hollered as we waded through thick brush towards a steep ridge. The blueberries and huckleberries were so thick we kept getting distracted from hiking. Soon, we both had purple mouths. Zigzagging up game trails and through devils club, we eventually crested the ridge and found a nice critter trail to follow.

In the evening, we broke out of tree line and into the disorienting swirl of clouds. Wandering around in the fog on Admiralty is always a little unnerving. It’s easy to get turned around and there’s always the possibility of stepping on a bear – an exciting, but rarely enjoyable phenomenon that often ends with both bear and human unexpectedly having diarrhea. One bear I ran into crapped so much as it ran away, I couldn’t help but think of the words “fecal propulsion.” Personally, I prefer crapping my pants privately. Or in the company of my girlfriend, MC. For some strange reason it brings her no end of joy. She lights up whenever she tells another “and then Bjorn pooped his pants story” at the wine tasting and etiquette parties we frequently attend.

Luke and I bumbled into a doe and then a small spike-fork that stared at us with tragic innocence just 20 yards away.

“Maybe we should set up camp here before we spook the rest of the area,” Luke suggested.

 

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While eating dinner, we watched the small buck and a couple of does come in and out of view as the wind swirled sheets of mist. It was well after dark when I took our food a short ways from camp to hang in a mountain hemlock tree. I was pissing around the area when I heard Luke scream, “No! No! This can’t be happening!”

If he was being mauled by a bear, his aggressor was the quiet type. Maybe a mute bear, or perhaps it was the KGB – or was it perhaps the IRS? I knew those lowlifes would eventually catch up with me. I hustled back to find Luke holding a flashing, beeping gadget that looked like it was thinking about blowing up.

“What the heck?” I asked.

“I accidentally hit the rescue button on my new inReach tracker!” he yelled.

I bellowed with laughter as he cursed and hammered the touch screen. What a funny story! I could tease him forever about this! I could just see the headlines in the newspaper now: “Deer hunter rescued after electronic accident.”

Suddenly, I realized I was with Luke and would suffer the same sort of defamation. Brother Reid would tease us forever about this. We put our heads together and tried to figure out how to turn the thing off. Nothing seemed to work. Soon we were both screaming.

“I’m going to throw it off a cliff!” I yelled. “No, wait! I’m going to shoot it!”

A half-hour of horror later, both of us were still hyperventilating, but we’d finally figured out how to turn the cursed thing off and send a message asking not to be rescued. We rolled into our sleeping bags a bit emotionally exhausted, but looking forward to first light.

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THE BOWL WE CAMPED next to was devoid of deer in the morning, likely a result of our theatrical performance the night before. Glassing with our rifle scopes, we slowly clambered up the ridge and into the clouds. In the far distance we made out three bucks – all looked like nice fork-horns and frying pan trophies.

Southeast Alaska’s deer are a smaller subspecies of blacktails. Their ancestors wandered up the Pacific Northwest coast to Southeast Alaska around 10,000 or so years ago as the massive Cordilleran ice sheet began to melt. They intrepidly made miles-wide ocean crossings and colonized virtually every island. Through time, they grew stockier, smaller and became more accustomed to the rain and darkness. When heavy snows came, most starved to death or died from exposure. Even today, populations vary greatly depending on the winters.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates there are roughly 200,000 blacktails in Southeast Alaska – give or take quite a few depending on the winter – with hunters annually harvesting around 12,300. Some hunters prefer to go after early-season bucks in the high country; others like to wait for the late season when snows push them down. When the clouds broke, revealing an expanse of mountains and ocean so beautiful that it made me pause, it was a clear reminder why I love hunting in early season the best.

We crept from rock to boulder and spotted another three deer below in a valley some 500 yards away. One was a decent fork, but there was no way to continue without being seen. Luke wanted a bigger buck and suggested hiking, a risk in that it could spook what remained in the area. I’d never passed on shooting a fork-horn and wasn’t about to start, even if there were bigger bucks around.

When the clouds rolled back in and shrouded us, we made a rapid descent into a gorge. I climbed out and spied the buck, but it was a bit far for a shot and I didn’t have a good rest. Mist soon swirled back in and I rapidly crawled another 100 yards to the edge of the valley.

I bundled up my jacket, chambered a round and waited. Minutes later, as the clouds began to thin I made out the shape of deer moving below. Gradually, the buck’s antlers appeared out of the gray. I waited until he turned to the side and fired; he fell over and lay still.

“Well,” Luke said, as the clouds rolled back in, “I think I’ll roll on and try to find that four-by-four.”

We have a long-standing joke about a mythical four-by-four buck. Reid once told Luke he’d retire if Luke ever shot one. Two years prior, I was standing with our older brother when a true monarch popped its head up at dusk just 20 yards away. I’d just taken a fat fork-horn and was about to climb down a steep slope to gut it and splay it open to cool overnight.

Well, that moose of a deer looked up and Luke, without a moment’s hesitation, fired. It tumbled down a slope. After I’d taken care of my deer, I turned on my headlamp and climbed over and found Luke reassembling a giant, broken set of antlers.

“It was at least a four-by-four,” he said, shrugging.

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BACK ON ADMIRALTY, I took every ounce of usable meat off the buck and kept the ribs intact for Luke’s three daughters to gnaw on. For years their favorite meal was deer ribs. Now they’re becoming more sophisticated.

It was a long, slow hike back to the crest of the ridge. Rain and wind buffeted me as I sat above camp looking out on the ocean. Luke emerged from the swirling clouds, I shouldered my pack, we hiked down to the tent and he told me about his hunt. He’d been skirting along the ridge and slowly approaching the three bucks we’d seen earlier; soon a bowl full of deer came into view.

Right off the bat, he noticed three big guys, including a three-by-four, bedded down. He crawled and sneaked from bush to bush until he was almost within range, which for him can be well over 300 yards.

Luke looked to his right and saw two bucks watching and acting like they might spook. If this were to happen, all the deer in the bowl would likely run off. He had a good rest, so he shot the larger of the bucks. Luke then rose to his full height and was greeted with a dozen sets of eyes and antlers. The mountain was so remote that the deer didn’t spook as he walked over to begin working on the downed buck.

We broke camp and began the long slog to the ocean. An hour or so before sunset, we made it to the salmon stream. As we inflated the raft and loaded up our gear, the sound of galloping came echoing down the stream. A bear, preoccupied with the salmon it was chasing, was running at us.

“Hey!” I yelled, and the horrified bear looked up and peeled out of the creek and into the safety of the forest. Aboard Luke’s skiff, we shared a drink with the bugs – we sipped Rainiers while they drank our blood.

A sow and her cub walked along the shore until they disappeared into the gloom. A few deer came out on the tidal flat – we checked for antlers and teased each other about hiking to the top of the mountain when there were deer to shoot on the beach. It was too late to make it back to Juneau, so we elected to spread our sleeping bags out and wake up early to do a little halibut fishing before heading home. “More deer,” I said, gesturing at the beach as we motored up the bay. Luke shook his head.

We dropped our lines baited with chunks of a pink salmon we’d caught that morning off a point. A lot of the time halibut fishing around Juneau can be slow and unproductive, but that day we had hits almost as soon as our leads hit the bottom. Within an hour we had four 25-pounders, the size that makes for some of the best eating.

 

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FOR THE FIRST TIME in several days, the sun burnt through the clouds and we were left with breathtaking vistas on the ride back to Juneau. Humpback whales were everywhere; at one point, a pod of 30 or so killer whales swam past, and some of the more playful and inquisitive ones came for a closer look when Luke put the boat in neutral.

We were eager for news on Reid and Meghan, and we soon found out the baby was indeed born on August 1. The proud parents named her Wren Meadows Dihle, and after a rough start in this world she was doing well.

I processed the fish as fast as I could, cleaned up the ribs for my nieces and, then with MC, headed over to Reid and Meghan’s home. Luke’s girls were sitting outside holding their cousin. Braith, the 7-year-old, showed me how to hold Wren.

“Why didn’t you name her Ruger Olaf?” I asked Reid.

“Don’t worry, she’ll still become the greatest hunter ever,” my little brother said as he proudly looked at his baby girl. ASJ

Editor’s note: Bjorn Dihle lives in Southeast Alaska. His first book, Haunted Inside Passage, will be published in May 2017.

Sig’s Crab Jackpot On This Week’s New Deadliest Catch

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From our friends at the Discovery Channel:

Tuesday, April 12
9PM ET/PT – DEADLIEST CATCH
No Good Deed…: Wild Bill risks his biggest lead in history to bail Josh Harris out of trouble. 23-year-old Sean Dwyer finds out if he’s got what it takes. Veteran skipper Johnathan Hillstrand leans on his crew and a little tip from a friend to turn his season around.

Here’s a sneak preview and look for a Q&A with Dwyer in the May issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:

Sportsmen’s Alliance Opposes USFWS Plan To Limit Predator Hunting

Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS)

Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS)

The Sportsmen’s Alliance, a nonprofit organization that prides itself on defending the rights of hunters and anglers. issued a press release this week concerning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal that would restrict predator hunting – bears and wolves – on Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges.

Here’s The Guardian with more on the USFWS plan:

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed an overhaul of hunting regulations for Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges, which span nearly 77m acres of wilderness in the state.

The new rules would effectively ban “non-subsistence” slaughter of predators within the refuges without a sound scientific reason. Practices to be outlawed include the killing of bear cubs or their mothers, the controversial practice of bear baiting and the targeting of wolves and coyotes during the spring and summer denning season.

Anyone hoping to take a plane or helicopter to shoot a bear will also be unable to do so. These changes have been backed by a group of 31 leading scientists who said the current hunting laws hurt some of the “most iconic yet persecuted species in North America: grizzly bears, black bears and wolves”.

In a letter sent for the USFWS’s public comment process, the biologists and ecologists from across the US point out that research shows that killing the predators of moose and caribou does very little to boost their numbers.

“Alaska’s many-decades program of statewide carnivore persecution has failed to yield more ungulates for human hunters,” the letter states. “Furthermore, the methods of predator persecution are seen as problematic by a clear majority of Alaska’s citizens.”\

And here is a portion of the Sportsmen’s Alliance rebuttal:

On April 7, the Sportsmen’s Alliance submitted comments opposing proposed rule changes concerning U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service management of game, in particular predator management and hunting, on National Wildlife Refuges and other public lands in Alaska. The proposed rule would effectively give USFWS primary control of nearly 77 million acres of public land and would grant the agency a massive expansion of power to indefinitely close the areas to hunting.

“We’re talking about an area larger than 45 of our 50 states,” said Evan Heusinkveld, president and CEO of Sportsmen’s Alliance. “There’s no justification for these new regulations and restrictions. This is just another example of this administration’s desire to circumvent congress and manage by executive whim – this is nothing more than a blatant power grab by the feds.” 

Heusinkveld added that local control is a far sounder practice: state fish and wildlife officials know their states’ particular needs, terrain and climate far better than bureaucrats in Washington. “A one-size-fits-all approach is simply bad policy,” he said.

The proposed changes fly in the face of congressional intent, as well as the precedential and statutory right of states to manage native wildlife on federal lands within their borders. More than any other state, Alaska has firmly spelled out in state and federal law that hunting plays a strong and important role in the state’s heritage and that the state should control season dates, methods of take and bag limits, excepting migratory species and those protected by threatened and endangered status in within the state.

These principles, followed for decades, are enshrined in the Alaska state constitution, in state law and regulation, and in several federal statutes – yet the administration is proposing regulations that turn these sound principles on their head.

You can read more about the USFWS proposal here.

 

Iditarod Musher Says She Was Groped On Course

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This has not been a good year for the Iditarod. While our former cover subject, Dallas Seavey, won his third consecutive “Last Great Race On Earth” in a thrilling duel with his dad, Mitch, the dog mushing world’s version of the Super Bowl was also marred by the attack on two mushers that left one dog dead. Now comes a report that an unnamed musher told Alaska State Troopers that she was groped on the race course.

From CBS News:

Alaska State Troopers were looking into the March 13 incident as harassment for now, James Lester said Monday. The 27-year-old rookie musher reported the groping at the checkpoint in the village of Nulato, almost 350 miles from the Nome finish line.

The incident happened a day after a man on a snowmobile intentionally drove into two top Iditarod teams, killing one dog and injuring others, authorities say.

Lester said he has been trying to contact the rookie musher and has not interviewed her yet. The woman, who went on to complete the 1,000-mile race, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment by The Associated Press on Monday.

The AP generally does not name people who may have been a victim of a sex crime.

Lester described the groping as offensive touching on the buttocks.

The Iditarod released a timeline of the incident Friday, saying two men had stopped next to the trail, and the musher thought they wanted to give her a high-five. Race marshal Mark Nordman said in the release that he immediately contacted authorities after a race judge notified him.

Discovery Channel Will Honor Gold Rush Patriarch John Schnabel

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I didn’t have much grandpa experience – my mom’s father passed away before I could ever meet him and my paternal grandfather died when I was not quite 6 (but I do have memories of him bouncing me on my knee and eating his homemade Greek fries).

But having watched multiple episodes of Discovery Channel’s hit show Gold Rush and in my chat with one of the show’s stars, Parker Schnabel, his grandfather, John Schnabel, meant the world to young Parker. John Schnabel passed away a couple weeks ago, and tributes have poured in for Parker and his family.

 

 

Sure enough, Discovery announced a special tribute to John Schnabel this Friday:

GOLD RUSH SPECIAL – Remembering John Schnabel
Premiering Friday, April 1 at 9 PM ET/PT on Discovery Channel
A special presentation of GOLD RUSH, honoring the life and legacy of Grandpa John Schnabel.

Born in 1920, John was the son of a Kansas wheat farmer. His father brewed bootleg alcohol during prohibition and the family had to leave the farm when the US Marshals came looking for him. At 19 years old, John packed up his possessions and took a steamer north to Haines, Alaska, where he joined his father, who had set up a sawmill.

The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, John volunteered to join the US Navy, but was placed in the Air Corps. After the war he returned to Haines and in 1946, he bought Porcupine Mill, which, after he renovated it, could produce 10,000 feet of board wood per day. John went on to open a local hardware store and was later elected mayor of Haines.

At 68, John suffered heart problems and underwent a triple bypass. His doctor recommended that he keep active so John bought the Big Nugget mine and started gold mining. He taught his grandsons Payson and Parker how to prospect, pan and operate equipment and passed on to them his passion for gold mining.

On March 18, 2016, John passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 96. A statement from the Schnabel family: “We couldn’t have asked for a better father, grandfather and overall family man. He was a true legend and we appreciate all of your love and support as we celebrate his wonderful life.”

Here’s a a sneak preview:

 

 

 

 

Lawsuit Filed To Protest Genetic Salmon

 

Photo by Scott and Tiffany Haugen

Photo by Scott and Tiffany Haugen

 

Several plaintiffs have banded together to file a lawsuit protesting the Food and Drug Administration’s approva of a genetically engineered salmon product.

Here’s some info on the lawsuit:

A broad coalition of environmental, consumer, and commercial and recreational fishing organizations today sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approving the first-ever genetically engineered (GE) food animal, an Atlantic salmon engineered to grow quickly. The man-made salmon was created by AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. with DNA from three fish: Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon, and Arctic ocean eelpout. This marks the first time any government in the world has approved a GE animal for commercial sale and consumption.

The plaintiff coalition, jointly represented by legal counsel from Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, includes Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Golden Gate Salmon Association, Kennebec Reborn, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Ecology Action Centre, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Cascadia Wildlands, and Center for Food Safety.

In approving the GE salmon, FDA determined it would not require labeling of the GE fish to let consumers know what they are buying, which led Congress to call for labeling in the 2016 omnibus spending bill. FDA’s approval also ignored comments from nearly 2 million people opposed to the approval because the agency failed to analyze and prevent the risks to wild salmon and the environment, as well as fishing communities, including the risk that GE salmon could escape and threaten endangered wild salmon stocks. 

The lawsuit challenges FDA’s claim that it has authority to approve and regulate GE animals as “animal drugs” under the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Those provisions were meant to ensure the safety of veterinary drugs administered to treat disease in livestock and were not intended to address entirely new GE animals that can pass along their altered genes to the next generation. The approval of the GE salmon opens the door to other genetically engineered fish and shellfish, as well as chickens, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits and pigs that are reportedly in development.

The lawsuit also highlights FDA’s failure to protect the environment and consult wildlife agencies in its review process, as required by federal law. U.S. Atlantic salmon, and many populations of Pacific salmon, are protected by the Endangered Species Act and in danger of extinction. Salmon is a keystone species and unique runs have been treasured by residents for thousands of years. Diverse salmon runs today sustain thousands of American fishing families, and are highly valued in domestic markets as a healthy, domestic, “green” food.

 

Here are a couple other statements from the plaintiff particulars  in this suit, courtesy of Golden Gate Salmon:

“FDA’s decision is as unlawful as it is irresponsible,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “This case is about protecting our fisheries and ocean ecosystems from the foreseeable harms of the first-ever GE fish, harms FDA refused to even consider, let alone prevent. But it’s also about the future of our food: FDA should not, and cannot, responsibly regulate this GE animal, nor any future GE animals, by treating them as drugs under a 1938 law.”

“FDA has not answered crucial questions about the environmental risks posed by these fish or what can happen when these fish escape,” said Earthjustice attorney Brettny Hardy and co-counsel for plaintiffs. “We need these answers now and the FDA must be held to a higher standard. We are talking about the mass production of a highly migratory GE fish that could threaten some of the last remaining wild salmon on the planet. This isn’t the time to skimp on analysis and simply hope for the best.”

 

“Once they escape, you can’t put these transgenic fish back in the bag. They’re manufactured to outgrow wild salmon, and if they cross-breed, it could have irreversible impacts on the natural world,” said Dune Lankard, a salmon fisherman and the Center for Biological Diversity’s Alaska representative. “This kind of dangerous tinkering could easily morph into a disaster for wild salmon that will be impossible to undo.”

“FDA’s action threatens and disrespects the wild salmon ecosystems, cultures and industries that are treasured here in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska,” said Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “These folks think a salmon is just a packet of protein, but we in Salmon Nation know better. From Alaska to California, Americans are intimately related with diverse runs of salmon and we’ve learned their unique attributes and incredible value. We’ve worked very hard to be good stewards of our natural heritage, and refuse to allow that to be undone by one company’s irresponsible experiment.”

 

 

 

Alaska Salmon Fishing Forecast A Decrease

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Alaska fishing industry writer Laine Welch’s recent report about the 2016 salmon forecast features a sharp drop in total catch.

Here’s Welch via the Capital City Weekly:

The preliminary numbers released by the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game call for a total catch of 161 million salmon this year; the 2015 harvest topped 268 million fish.

The shortfall stems from a projected big decrease for pink salmon. A humpie harvest forecast of 90 million would be a drop of 100 million fish from last summer.

Here’s the statewide catch breakdown for the other salmon species: for sockeye, the forecast calls for a catch just shy of 48 million, down by more than 7 million reds from last year.

A coho catch of 4.4 million would be a half million fish increase; likewise, for chum salmon, a catch of nearly 19 million would be a similar increase over last season.

For Chinook, a catch of 99,000 fish is projected for all areas except Southeast, where the harvest will be determined according to Pacific Treaty agreements with Canada. Last year’s statewide Chinook catch was 521,612.

It all adds up to fewer salmon being available to global buyers this year – and some hopeful market signs for Alaska salmon are starting to surface.

 

 

Deadliest Catch Returns On Tuesday

Photo by Discovery Channel

Photo by Discovery Channel

We just finished up an interview with 23-year-old Sean Dwyer, who just finished his rookie year captaining a crab fishing vessel chronicled on the new season of Discovery Channel’s hit show, Deadliest Catch. Look for our story on him for our May isssue, but tune in tonmorow for the Season 12 premiere.

Here’s the Discovery release along with some clips:

For the past 11 years, the veteran captains of the Bering Sea have carved their living in one of the world’s most dangerous fisheries – risking it all including their lives. But this year, a new generation is stepping up and claiming their seat at the table. But do they have the drive and guts that it takes to become a legend? From Original Productions, the 16-time Emmy Award-winning series DEADLIEST CATCH returns for its 12th season on Tuesday, March 29 at 9 PM ET/PT on the Discovery Channel.
“When I look around at the new guys, there is a lot of opportunity but not a lot of promise,” said Sig Hansen, captain of the F/V Northwestern. “I don’t see as much fear as I would have hoped to see. They don’t seem fearful because in their mind, there is nothing to fear. At sea, you find out what a guy is made out of. Not everyone makes the cut.”
What the young guys lack in experience, they make up for in drive and eagerness. This season, DEADLIEST CATCH welcomes a new skipper to town. Just 23-years-old, Sean Dwyer of the Brenna A is the youngest captain ever in the history of DEADLIEST CATCH. Following in the footsteps of his recently-departed father, the young rookie has fished all his life but never as a captain on the Bering Sea. Now he embarks upon the Holy Grail of commercial fishing in a vessel that hasn’t fished crab in eight years and manned by an all-rookie crew. Added pressure comes from the fact that his 290,000 lb. quota comes from Sig.
Sean isn’t the only one feeling the heat. Breaking free of Sig’s mentoring grip is Jake Anderson who takes his first full season at the helm of the Saga. Last season, Jake fought to prove his worth as a fisherman, father and captain. Now that he’s been given a shot, he needs to prove his worth as a leader. But can he command a crew he also sees as his friends?
Meanwhile on the Cornelia Marie, young skipper Josh Harris steps out of the shadows to claim his birthright on the legendary vessel once commanded by his father, the late Captain Phil Harris. The boat has finally gotten an overhaul – complete with new electronics and engine room. But making the boat like new comes with a steep price. To pay for the overhaul, Josh had to sell a majority of the boat to investors meaning if they can’t find crab, the investors will find someone else who can.
Over on the Cape Caution, a new year brings a new crew for long-time Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski. This season, Wild Bill turns to his son Zach Larson to find and train the boat’s crew. But the teaching process hasn’t been quite so easy for the teacher or the students. Can Zach prove he’s up to the challenge to finally take over the wheel house?
Captain Keith Colburn of The Wizard is struggling with life both on and off the deck. Keith hopes for a fresh start this season after recently breaking up with his wife of 25 years and accepting that his kids are all grown up. Millions of dollars-worth of crab on the line, and Keith’s crew is ready to go on day one. But before they can leave, they need their captain… who is nowhere to be found.
On the Time Bandit, Jonathan Hillstrand and his brother Andy, find themselves in a dicey situation that could not only cost them a quarter million dollars but that could potentially cost them their fishing license. Will Jonathan make the right decision? Or will this force them to call it quits before the season even started? And finally on the Northwestern, salty Captain Sig Hansen makes a bold decision to search for crab on grounds that he hasn’t been to in over a decade. Was it the right choice? Or was there good reason why he’s avoided it this long?
While experience battles youth this season, Mother Nature wages war. The warm waters of El Niño push the crab deeper, making the catch even more elusive. Each boat will have to fight even harder for every crab that comes over the rail. Injuries, breakdowns and chaotic weather plague the fleet, proving once and for all that in the Bering Sea legends can be built… But they also can be broken.
The 2-hour season premiere of DEADLIEST CATCH airs Tuesday, March 29 at 9 PM ET/PT on the Discovery Channel.

Aleutians Volcano Erupts

Mount Pavlov, an 8000-foot-plus volcano in the Aleutians, has erupted. (USFWS)

Mount Pavlov, an 8000-foot-plus volcano in the Aleutians,  erupted on Sunday. (USFWS)

Living anywhere along the West Coast means two potential geological hazards: earthquakes and volcanoes.

Anyone who lives in southern Washington experienced the power and fury of Mother Nature during the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980.

On the isolated Aleutian Islands off the Alaskan coast, an 8000-foot volcano cleared its throat on Sunday.

Here’s the Associated Press with more:

The Pavlof Volcano, which is about 600 miles southwest of Anchorage, erupted at 4:18 p.m. local time. The agency says the eruption also led to tremors on the ground.

The USGS raised the volcano alert level to “Warning” and the aviation warning to “Red.”

The agency says the volcano, which is about 4.4 miles in diameter, has had 40 known eruptions and “is one of the most consistently active volcanoes in the Aleutian arc.”

 

 

RIP To Parker Schnabel’s Grandfather

Mine 3 Big Nugget. Parker and John Schnabel.

Mine 3 Big Nugget. Parker and John Schnabel.

Sad news today, as Gold Rush star Parker Schnabel’s beloved grandfather, John, has passed away. 

From People:

“We couldn’t have asked for a better father, grandfather and overall family man,” the Schnabel family tells PEOPLE in an exclusive statement. “He was a true legend and we appreciate all of your love and support as we celebrate his wonderful life.”

Condolences to the Schnabel family.

Click here for our previous interview with Parker, who spoke fondly of his grandpa.