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Fish Factor: 2019 Alaska Seafood Industry's "Picks & Pans" By LAINE WELCH - Every year since 1991 Fish Factor has selected “picks and pans” for Alaska’s seafood industry - a no-holds-barred look back at some of the year’s best and worst fishing highlights, and my choice for the biggest fish story of the year.

Here are the 2019 picks and pans, in no particular order: 

Best fish scientist – Dr. Bob Foy, director of science and research at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center/Juneau – No one explains science better or with more passion.

Biggest new business potential: Mariculture. Alaska is acting on plans to grow a $100 million seaweed and shellfish industry in 20 years, and that could be far short of its potential. Along with food makers, the U.S. Energy Department has its sights on Alaska for biofuels from macroalgae.  

Biggest fish sigh of relief: Governor Dunleavy’s backing off from taking 100% of raw fish taxes from fishing towns.

Biggest fish challenge: Getting whaled. Fishermen say they can lose 75% or more of their sablefish catches when whales strip their lines. Many have switched to pots, but most smaller boats can’t handle that heavy gear and hydraulics.

Best fish fighter: Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak

Best fish fact – Most fishing vessels are independent small businesses that support many families. Coastal harbors can be likened to malls in a marina!

Best fish knowledge builders: Alaska Sea Grant.

Best fish feeder of many: Sea Share, with over 220 million fish servings to U.S. food banks since 1994. 

Trickiest fishing conundrum: Balancing sea otters versus crab and dive fisheries in Southeast Alaska.

Biggest fish missed opportunity: Using Alaska’s three billion pounds of fish heads, skins, guts and other “wastes” for nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, pet foods, etc. A report by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute shows using “specialty products” could be worth $700 million or more to the industry.

Most earth-friendly fishing town: Kodiak, for generating nearly 100 percent of its electricity from wind and hydropower, and for turning its fish wastes into high-quality oils and meals instead of grinding it up and dumping it into the water, as in most Alaska fishing towns. (see above)

Best fish helper: Rick Green, special assistant to the ADF&G commissioner.  

Scariest fish stories: Ocean acidification and warming oceans.

Best daily fish news sites: SeafoodNews.com,  UndercurrentNews, SeafoodSource

Best fish watchers: Cook Inletkeeper, SalmonState           

Best fish economistGarrett Evridge/McDowell Group, again. Weekly salmon reports, industry updates, always has the facts and figures.

Best fish mainstream push:  Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP)  On a well-planned mission to make Alaska pollock (“cod’s smaller cousin”) the world’s favorite whitefish. 

Best go to bat for their fishery: Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association; the fishermen-funded/operated group generated over $3 million in 2019 by a 1% tax on their catches to enhance/protect/promote their fishery. (Why other fishing regions don’t form state-sanctioned RSDAs is beyond me.)

Best blue economy motivators:  Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association with its Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative, Ocean Tuesday Virtual Speaker Series

Biggest fish broadside: The continuing 25 percent trade tariffs on U.S. seafood products going to and from China. 

Best “mom and pop” entrepreneurs: Barnacle Foods of Juneau – kelp salsas, pickles, hot sauce and jams! 

Best eco-friendly fish expansion: Net Your Problem by Nicole Baker. One woman’s quest to mobilize AK to remove old fishing nets, lines and gear expanded from Dutch Harbor and Kodiak to Naknek, Dillingham, Haines, Petersburg and Juneau. The plastic gear is shipped to Europe and recycled into new products.

Biggest fish fake: Genetically modified salmon, or manmade “Frankenfish.” 

Best emerging fish writer:  Sarah Lapidus, Kodiak Daily Mirror

Worst fish travesty: Cuts to commercial and sport halibut catches while bycatch rates (“non-directed commercial discard mortality”) remain fixed for trawl fisheries (6 million pounds in the Bering Sea).  Time for those big, out of state fishing boats to share in halibut conservation. - More...
Sunday PM - January 05, 2020


Alaska: Alaska's Minimum Wage Increases in 2020 By MARY KAUFFMAN - A total of 26 states and the District of Columbia will raise the minimum wage in 2020, with 22 of those states implementing the increases on January 1, 2020.

The Alaska minimum wage increased from $9.89 to $10.19 in 2020. Voters passed a ballot initiative in 2014 to adjust the minimum wage annually for inflation.

Quoting a news release from the Alaska Department of Labor, Alaska Statute 23.10.065(a) requires the Alaska minimum wage to be adjusted using the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers, formerly the Anchorage CPI, for the preceding calendar year. The CPI-U increased 3.0 percent in 2018, from 218.873 to 225.545. As a result, the minimum wage will rise from $9.89 to $10.19, effective Jan. 1, 2020. By law, Alaska’s minimum wage must remain at least $1 per hour over the federal minimum wage.

The Alaska minimum wage applies to all hours worked in a pay period, regardless of how the employee is paid: whether by time, piece, commission, or otherwise. The least an employer can pay an employee is equal to all actual hours worked in a pay period multiplied by the Alaska minimum wage, unless an employer can demonstrate a specific exemption.

In Alaska, tips do not count toward the minimum wage. Further, under Alaska law, public school bus driver wages must be no less than twice the current Alaska minimum wage. Also, certain exempt employees must be paid on a salary basis of not less than twice the current Alaska minimum wage, based on a 40-hour work week, to maintain their exempt status.

The highest rates in the nation are found at the municipal level. Seattle has the highest minimum wage rate at $16.00 per hour for large employers and $15.00 for small employers. New York City's minimum wage is set at $15.00 per hour for all employers. 

California will raise the minimum wage rates by $1 on January 1 ($12.00 per hour for employers with 25 employees or less, and $13.00 per hour for employers with 26 employees or more), while the highest state rate will remain in Washington at $13.50 per hour. A few states' wages remain on the lower end of the spectrum, with some state minimums coming in below the federal wage rate, and others with a slower incremental increase.

The lowest minimum wage rates of $5.15 are in Georgia and Wyoming. However, most employers and employees would be subject to the higher federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour. 

"The increases indicate a move toward ensuring a living wage for people across several states," said Barbara O'Dell, JD, an Employment Law Analyst for Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S.

O'Dell said, "Some of the new rates are the result of previously approved incremental increases to reach a specific amount that is considered to be a living wage such as California, Colorado, Maine, Washington, whereas other states' increases reflect an annual cost-of-living adjustment, such as Alaska, Florida, Minnesota, Montana."

Those states following the step-up approach tend to have higher minimum wage rates than those taking a cost-of-living adjustment approach.

The trend towards regional minimum wages, such as those in New York and Oregon, also reflect lawmakers' recognition that costs of living are higher in large metro areas than they are in other parts of the state. - More...
Sunday PM - January 05, 2020


Alaska: Report compiles Alaska vital statistic data on births, deaths, marriages and divorces - The Section of Health Analytics & Vital Records within the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Health just released its 2018 Alaska Vital Statistics Annual Report. The report examines Alaska resident births, deaths, adoptions, as well as marriages and divorces using the most recent Alaska Vital Statistics data. These figures provide health trends for health care providers, planners, researchers and others interested in public health.

In 2018, Olivia and Oliver were the most popular baby names, replacing Emma and James from 2017. Alaskan mothers gave birth to 10,092 babies last year. The fertility rate of 69.3 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age in 2018 was a slight decrease from 71.4 births per 1,000 women in 2017, continuing a fertility rate decline in Alaska that is also occurring nationwide. In 2018, 4,940 marriages were performed and there were 2,759 separations; both of those rates show general declines over the last decade.

During 2018, a total of 4,461 deaths occurred among Alaskan residents. The top 10 leading causes of death accounted for 72% of all deaths and were, in ranked order: 1) malignant neoplasms (cancer); 2) diseases of the heart; 3) unintentional injuries (including unintentional overdoses); 4) chronic lower respiratory disease; 5) cerebrovascular disease (stroke); 6) intentional self-harm (suicide); 7) Alzheimer’s disease; 8) diabetes; 9) chronic liver disease and cirrhosis; and 10) influenza and pneumonia.

“The yearly vital statistics report helps the Department of Health and Social Services work with community members to address the leading causes of death to help fulfill our mission of improving the health of all Alaskans today and tomorrow,” said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer. “Promoting health and wellness is a collaborative process. Alaskans can help improve their health and address many of these leading causes of death by getting regular physical activity, choosing healthy foods and drinks, avoiding tobacco and other substances of addiction, getting regular health screenings and taking other preventive health measures such as keeping current on all vaccinations including the flu vaccine.”

In a positive trend, Alaska’s age-adjusted death rate decreased over the past two years, from 740.5 deaths per 100,000 Alaska residents in 2016 to 707.5 deaths per 100,000 Alaska residents in 2018. Age- adjusted death rates for cancer and heart disease also decreased over the past five years while unintentional injuries have remained roughly the same over that same time frame and are the leading cause of premature death. - More...
Sunday PM - January 05, 2020

Alaska: Superior Court Decision Finds Former Refinery Owner Must Pay Damages to State for Sulfolane Pollution in North Pole Drinking Water - The Superior Court in Fairbanks issued a decision on Friday holding Williams Alaska Petroleum, Inc. (Williams) liable for releasing large quantities of a refinery solvent known as sulfolane into the groundwater under the North Pole Refinery, polluting hundreds of residents’ drinking water wells. 

The State of Alaska filed suit against past refinery owner Williams in 2014.  Subsequent refinery owners Flint Hills Resources Alaska, LLC and Flint Hills Resources, LLC (Flint Hills) previously settled with the State and have been working proactively to address the contamination.  As part of the settlement with Flint Hills, the State, the City of North Pole, and Flint Hills have been expanding a clean, public water utility to affected properties.

Superior Court Judge Pro Tem Warren W. Matthews found Williams liable to the State for costs and damages, including: - More...
Sunday PM - January 05, 2020

Alaska blackfish in a world of its own

Alaska blackfish in a world of its own
An Alaska blackfish swims in a tank at the Fairbanks office of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.


Alaska: Alaska blackfish in a world of its own By NED ROZELL - North of the village of Hughes, in frigid, sluggish water, dim blue light penetrates two feet of lake ice. The ice has a quarter-size hole, maintained by a stream of methane bubbles. Every few minutes, a brutish little fish swims up, turns to sip air, and peels back to the dank.

The Alaska blackfish is an evolutionary loner that fins through lakes and tundra ponds across much of the state. It exists nowhere else, except just across Bering Strait in Siberia. Not much larger than a banana, the fish is different from others in the state because, in addition to gathering oxygen through its gills, it can pull oxygen from free air.

tropics. The Alaska blackfish’s ability to gulp the same air as you and me has allowed it to occupy stagnant northern pools that kill other fish. When ice seals off small lakes and the stocked rainbow trout goes belly up, the blackfish guts it out.

Just how tough is the blackfish? A rural legend is of a blackfish being chipped from a frozen mass of its brethren and fed to a sled dog. The fish thaws and revives in the dog’s stomach, where its wriggling causes the dog to vomit. There on the snow, a live fish writhes, resurrected. This story has persisted since Lucien Turner, writing about Alaska natural history in 1886, first documented it.

Per Scholander was skeptical about Turner’s “colorful” report. Scholander was a physiologist interested in how creatures and plants survive extreme cold. Along with Laurence Irving, who later founded the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Institute of Arctic Biology, Scholander traveled to Barrow in 1948 to study plants and animals. In their journal writeup of that work, they devoted the final chapter to “Experiments on Freezing the Blackfish.”

From Barrow lakes, the scientists captured eight blackfish and froze them into a block of ice. When they thawed the fish, none were alive.

“However,” Scholander wrote, “the blackfish, like man and other animals, can survive being partially frozen.” - More...
Sunday PM - January 05, 2020


Analysis: With the US and Iran on the brink of war, the dangers of Trump's policy of going it alone become clear By KLAUS W. LARRES - President Donald Trump’s policy toward Iran is in deep crisis. The president’s approach has the support neither of America’s allies nor of its strategic rivals, China and Russia. And his policy – made even more confrontational by the shooting of a high-ranking Iranian official – has boxed him into a situation where, short of dramatic reversal, Washington and Tehran are edging close to war.

By failing to forge policies in cooperation with allies, the U.S. was robbed of advice and expertise in how to tackle the problems posed by Iran. Above all, it led to the dangerous deterioration of relations between the U.S. and Iran after the U.S. became the sole country to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. That deal was painstakingly negotiated by the Obama administration in cooperation with five other world powers.

Instead of Trump’s harsh policy imposing maximum pressure on Iran, Iran has turned the tables and has put pressure on a freshly impeached U.S. president whose reelection is by no means assured and whose international diplomatic isolation and weakness is no secret in the region.

And once again, Trump took unilateral action early on Friday morning. The killings of Iran’s revered and powerful military commander, General Qassem Soleimani, and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a U.S. drone strike on Baghdad airport has further escalated tension in the region.

The killings immediately caused huge anti-American protests in Iran and led to the rise of global oil prices and the fall of stock markets around the world. On Sunday, Iran announced it would no longer heed the restrictions in the 2015 nuclear deal that restricted its development of nuclear weapons. Iraq’s lawmakers voted on a bill drafted by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to expel U.S. forces from the country. The bill must be signed by the prime minister to take effect. - More...
Sunday PM - January 05, 2020

Analysis: Why the race for the presidency begins with the Iowa caucus By STEFFEN W. SCHMIDT - The first and most visible test of candidate support in the 2020 presidential election is the Iowa presidential caucus, which takes place on Feb. 3.

While Iowa does not control who becomes the candidate of each party, Iowans’ choices almost always end up matching the rest of the nation.

One of the architects of the modern Iowa caucuses, which began in 1972, wrote that the significance of the caucus was unanticipated.

“Never in our dreams did we realize we would be ‘first in the nation,’ nor did we ever expect anyone outside Iowa would pay much attention,” retired Iowa State University engineering professor Richard Seagrave wrote.

Seagrave said that it wasn’t political calculation that led to the choice to run the caucus early in the election year. It was the “immense amount of paperwork” needed to document caucus proceedings with only a slow mimeograph machine that led to the choice of such an early caucus date.

“Remember that we had no ‘user-friendly’ computers or high-speed copy machines in 1972,” wrote Seagrave.

The significance of first-in-the-nation placement did not become clear until a barely known governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, came to Iowa in 1976 to test the waters for a presidential run.

That year “Uncommitted” got 14,508 votes (37%). Carter came in with 10,764 votes (27%, but was declared the winner. He went on to get the nomination and win the presidency. The fact that a relative unknown – spending little money but lots of time and face-to-face campaigning – could win was surprising. - More...
Sunday PM - January 05, 2020



TOM PURCELL: Don't Take Cyber Scammers' Bait in 2020 - One of 2019’s biggest stories will be bigger in 2020: Cyber scams are on the rise.

“As people increasingly conduct business and live their lives online, more and more criminals are leveraging the internet to steal,” reports Forbes’ Stu Sjouwerman.

The dirty rotten scammers continue to evolve, too, targeting businesses, government organizations and individuals alike with increasingly sophisticated schemes.

One is ransomware – malicious software that blocks access to computers until money is paid.

Scammers also send phony “phishing” emails – often spoofing emails from big retailers – with fraudulent links or attachments that, when clicked, give scammers unfettered access to computer users’ data.

Google “ransomware attack” and you’ll see a sizable list of big companies and entire cities that have been completely shut down by scammers.

They also spoof text messages. Apparently from reputable companies, such as banks, these messages trick individuals into revealing passwords or credit card numbers.

Scammers continue to succeed with the good old telephone, too. I received a call this year from a man claiming he was from the Social Security Administration, who told me my account was blocked and he would help me reactivate it.

Aware that Social Security never makes phone calls (unless you’re having a legitimate conversation with it), I knew what the scammer was after: my full name, birthdate, address and Social Security number.

I asked him how he could sleep at night, knowing he was hurting innocent people. He cussed at me and hung up. - More...
Sunday PM - January 05, 2020

jpg Political Cartoon: Soleimani's Wheels

Political Cartoon: Soleimani's Wheels
By Gary McCoy ©2020, Shiloh, IL
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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jpg Opinion

Oversite and management of our docks By Ken Duckett - As a growing number of folks in the greater Ketchikan area are aware, the Ketchikan City Council is considering contracting out the oversite and management of our docks, berths 1 thru 4, to a private company for up to 30 years. I believe the main reason they are considering this is that they see the need to increase the capacity of the individual berths in order to accommodate the new larger cruise ships and to improve some downtown areas to better handle the additional passengers they would bring. These improvements would have a significant cost and the Council doesn’t believe the citizens of Ketchikan would support another bond issue. Frankly, I think they are correct. The visitor industry is a very important part of our economic fabric, but the ever increasing numbers of tourists is threating to, or already has begun to change the quality of life that year-round residents enjoy and value. I oppose the city implementing any such management contract for our port facilities for the following reasons:

• Most private companies are doing everything they can to eliminate middlemen and make their operations as cost effective as possible. Probably one of the most prominent examples of this is Amazon. The city is hoping to get a large cash infusion, in the neighborhood of 35 million, from the company that would be awarded this management contract. We all know that one of the first objectives of any private company is to make money, and certainly this management company would be no different. Where do you think that money would come from? It’s not going to come from the cruise ship companies. I believe the management company’s profits will come from funds that would have gone to the community of Ketchikan, in one form or another, over the period of the contract. The port management company would have to recoup the upfront 35 million in addition to their annual operating profits.

• The term of the management contract is to be for an estimated 30 year period. I know I don’t have the wisdom to see what would be best for our community for the next 30 years, and I really don’t believe our City Council members do either. Just think back to the past 30 years and the changes, good and bad, that have taken place. Who would have seen the change from the timber industry being the main economic activity 30 years ago to the tourism industry of today?

• I don’t want a company whose main concern is making as much profit as possible and whose employees don’t live here year around, making decisions about port operations that we Ketchikan residents wilI have to live with not just during the tourist season, but all year. Our city and borough governments make lots of decisions that I don’t agree with, but at least I know that they have to live with their decisions just like I do. That would not be the case if the city hires a middleman manager to control our port system. - More...
Sunday PM - January 05, 2020

jpg Opinion

Misinformed? By Charlie Freeman - Recently, on the official City website, under the heading of “Mayor and City Council”, was a letter, author unknown, that was apparently intended to set the Our Port group straight.  It began, in the first paragraph, by informing the Our Port people that we are misinformed.  It then went on to outline the RFP, the proposed process for review of the proposals received by a select committee, with a final presentation to the whole Council and public of their choice for a yes or no vote.  - More...
Monday PM - December 23, 2019

jpg Opinion

City's “Berth Lease Proposals” By Mike Cruise - Mike Holman and Charlie Freeman have recently written opinion / information letters about the City's “Berth Lease Proposals”. These actions would surrender the community’s four downtown cruise-ship docks to private control for up to 30 years. Mike and Charlie have been around and I value their opinions. On this issue I think they are absolutely right……. This is not a wise decision and the process being used doesn’t pass the “smell” test.- More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

jpg Opinion

“Alaskans for Better Elections” Seeks to Destroy Alaska’s Voting System By Ann Brown - The day before the Independence Day holiday last summer, local progressives quietly filed a petition ironically named "Alaskans for Better Elections," which would destroy the integrity of Alaska's elections. If passed the ballot initiative would bring us ranked-choice voting.* The petition was sponsored, in part, by former District 22 Representative Jason Grenn. You may remember that Mr. Grenn was soundly defeated by now-Representative Sara Rasmussen in 2018. . - More..
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

jpg Opinion

Corruption By Dominic Salvato - Sealaska shareholders are the one's to blame for allowing a handful of native leaders to convert our combined assets into personal wealth for Sealaska's management. Compensation for executives have topped 75 million dollars in the last decade. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

jpg Opinion

MUCH WORSE THAN WATERGATE By David G Hanger - The words of Michelle Goldberg really say it all, “This administration is rotten to the core and fundamentally disloyal to the country it purports to serve. So is every politician who still tries to explain its corruption away.” This is much worse than Watergate because what we have here is treason specifically intended to benefit the Russians and Trump’s handler, Vlad Putin.

Many of you are the children and the grandchildren of the folks who were here in the 1950s and the 1960s, and a whole bunch of them were John Birchers, right-wing extremists who obsessively believed in a vast “international Communist conspiracy” that in fact never existed. The Russians, the Chinese, and the Vietnamese, for example, are not friends. Albeit over the top with their obsession to a considerable degree, they were quite correct in identifying Russia as an enemy. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

jpg Opinion

Russia and China Missile Threats By Donald Moskowitz - President Trump is correct in withdrawing from the intermediate range missile treaty with Russia enacted 30 years ago, because Russia broke the treaty with its missile development. 

Another problem with the treaty was it did not prevent non-treaty countries from developing intermediate range missiles; and China has developed and deployed intermediate range missiles. The Chinese missiles can outperform our defensive systems that protect Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

As a former Navy enlisted and officer (Penn State 1963, NROTC) I am concerned with the Chinese missiles designed to thwart the capabilities of our aircraft carriers, because the anti-ship missiles can be launched beyond the range of our carrier based aircraft.  This places us at a disadvantage countering Chinese threats in the Far East. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

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