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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
February 01, 2016

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Fish Factor: Pacific halibut harvest not slashed for first time in 15 years By LAINE WELCH - Alaska’s halibut stocks are showing signs of an uptick and fishermen’s catches will not be slashed for the first time in 15 years.

Pacific halibut harvest not slashed for first time in 15 years

The Pacific halibut, Hippoglossus stenolepis, is one of the largest flatfish - they can weigh up to 500 pounds and grow to over 8 feet long. According to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, the maximum documented age for male and female halibut is 55 years. Age is estimated by counting rings in the otolith, or ear bone.
Photo courtesy NOAA -

Fishery managers on Friday set the coast wide Pacific halibut harvest for 2016 at 29.89 million pounds, a 2.3 percent increase from last year.

“This was probably the most positive, upbeat meeting in the past decade,” said Doug Bowen of Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer. “The feeling is the stocks are up and the resource is stabilizing and recovering, and it’s the first meeting in a long time that there weren’t any areas that are looking at double digit cuts.”

“The bottom line for this year is that we can see some positive trends both in the data and in the stock assessment models,” said Ian Stewart, a scientist with the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), which held its annual meeting last week in Juneau. The IPHC manages the catches and fishery research for west coast states, British Columbia and Alaska. “The stock appears to be stabilizing at a coast-wide level and the more years that we’ve see this play out, the more certain we become of that.”

Alaska share of the total halibut catch was set at 21.45 million pounds, an increase of 200,000 pounds from last year.

Southeast Alaska saw the largest halibut harvest gain for recreational and commercial users at 4.95 million pounds, a 6.1 percent increase over 2015. Scientists said based on survey data, the Panhandle again showed the most improvement in both fish catches and weights.

Catches in the biggest halibut fishing hole in the Central Gulf (3A) were decreased by five percent to 9.6 million pounds, the only region to get a cut. Although the annual survey showed increased catches for the first time in nearly 12 years, scientists said they remain concerned that the fish are still showing slow growth rates. They also had questions about potential inaccurate accountings of halibut taken as bycatch in other fisheries.

For the Western Gulf (3B) the IPHC scientists said they “are optimistic that 3B has hit bottom and is showing stabilization.”

The other three halibut fishing areas in the Aleutians and Bering Sea also showed “strong signs” of holding steady. - More...
Monday AM - February 01, 2016

Alaska: Concerns Raised About Monopoly of Individual Health Insurance in Alaska After Moda Health Plan Stopped from Issuing or Renewing Policies By MARY KAUFFMAN - Thursday the Alaska Division of Insurance cancelled Moda Health’s ability to sell health insurance in Alaska leaving Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield as the only company selling individual health insurance plans in Alaska.

The Alaska Division of Insurance issued a Determination of Impairment last Thursday, thereby limiting Moda Health Plan’s business practices in Alaska. Under the determination, Moda’s ability to accept new and renewal business in Alaska is suspended. This action follows the Order of Immediate Supervision issued by the State of Oregon, where Moda is domiciled.

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) in a prepared statement said, “I’m extremely disappointed that the health care of thousands of Alaskans will be negatively affected by the inability of Moda Health to issue new insurance policies in the state and its exit from the individual exchange and other markets in Alaska. Even before this news, I have been hearing from hundreds of Alaskans who were pleading for help due to skyrocketing insurance premiums. Unfortunately, this development will result in more hardship."

Sullivan said, “For this reason, I’ve reached out to senior officials at the Department of Health and Human Services to request any form of immediate relief for Alaskans, who have been some of the most negatively impacted Americans by Obamacare."

“Moda’s problems in Alaska are further evidence that Obamacare is colossal failure for Alaskans. Nearly every promise made by the President, as well as by those who voted for the act, has been broken. That's why the law needs to be replaced with one that allows insurance companies to continue to be able to provide coverage for Alaskans,” said Sullivan.

“[Thursday's] announcement is meant to protect Alaskans from the failings of an individual insurance provider, but it also begs the question of the overall instability of our current healthcare system” said Congressman Don Young (R-AK). “With the departure of Aetna, Assurant Health and State Farm last year, Alaskans are now left with only one viable option to obtain individual health insurance – which is concerning from a competition and marketplace standpoint. The Alaska Division of Insurance has made assurances that Moda policy holders will continue to be able to access health care services, their claims will be paid and consumers will be protected. Alaskans should know that the State and the congressional delegation will be working with them as this process moves forward.”

“The Division of Insurance has been closely reviewing Moda’s financial status and monitoring related consumer complaints,” said Lori Wing-Heier, Director of the Division of Insurance. “We took this action to protect Alaskans—Moda’s inadequate capital and excessive operating losses put it in a hazardous financial situation. Today’s action will facilitate the division’s participation in the company’s financial decisions to ensure that policyholders are protected. The division will do everything within its authority to see that Moda’s policyholders will continue to access medical services until they can be transitioned to another insurer.” Information regarding frequently asked questions for policyholders is available on the Alaska Division of Insurance’s website. - More...
Monday AM - February 01, 2016


Alaska: Concerned For Their Future, GOA Trawl Fishermen Cease Fishing To Deliver Message - A majority of Gulf of Alaska groundfish trawlers will voluntarily suspend fishing in order to attend the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Portland, Oregon this week. They are concerned that the recent State of Alaska proposal to restructure their fisheries would seriously harm their livelihoods and the economies of their fishery dependent communities.

Instead of harvesting fish and pursuing their livelihood, many of the vessel owners, skippers and crew that deliver into Kodiak, Sand Point and King Cove will travel over 3,000 miles round-trip to express their concerns to decision makers at a fisheries management meeting in Portland, Oregon.

“This is really quite unique,” said Julie Bonney, Executive Director of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank based in Kodiak, Alaska. “Fishermen agreeing to stand down, essentially losing income, in order to make this trip to provide their input demonstrates just how important this change in management is to the fishing industry.”

All of these vessels compete with each other, and the fact that there has been a consensus among these competitive fishermen to stop fishing and go to the meeting underscores the urgency they feel.

“The state really upset the apple cart by proposing a completely different approach to manage these fisheries and it was pretty late in the game,” said Heather Mann, Director of the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative. “The meeting in Portland is the first opportunity for harvesters and processors directly impacted by any new management program to provide their valuable input on the state’s recent proposal,” continued Mann, “as the new alternative was added late in the October 2015 Council meeting with little opportunity for public comment until now.”

“Fishermen prefer to be on the water,” said Kiley Thompson from Sand Point, Alaska and president of Peninsula Fishermen’s Coalition, “plying their trade and harvesting fish, not traveling thousands of miles to stand in front of a large group of decision makers and other stakeholders to provide public testimony.” Bob Krueger, president of Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association, continues, “This change in management is so very important to the livelihoods of industry participants and the Gulf of Alaska communities they support that they are suspending their business activities (without pay) and traveling on their own dime in order to provide their input. This really says something about the dedication of these fishermen and their willingness to do what they feel is necessary to engage in the process.” - More...
Monday AM - February 01, 2016

Alaska: Keeping Data Private - Taking that Facebook quiz to find out one’s spirit animal might seem like harmless fun, but one wrong click could put a person’s online data at risk. To help combat security threats Better Business Bureau participated in Data Privacy Day 2016. This year’s theme was “Respecting Privacy, Safeguarding Data and Enabling Trust.” The day is recognized annually to promote awareness on the importance of online privacy and protecting your personal information.

According to a survey conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Zogby International only 26 percent of Americans felt “their home computer was safe from viruses” while a mere 21 percent felt safe from hackers. - More...
Monday AM - February 01, 2016



Columns - Commentary

DAVE KIFFER: Not Much Rockin and Rollin Round Here - I was on the Internet a few days ago when Los Anchorage got shaken and stirred by a fair size earthquake. It was one of those virtual moments where one of my up north Facebook friends suddenly announced. "Wow, that was a big one." Then others quickly chimed in their reports of shaking and things falling off the walls.

Experiencing it online was better than actually being there.

Really, it was.

Turned out the temblor was one of the biggest ones to hit that area in a couple of decades.

Of course, down in here in Our Fair Salmon City we felt nothing.

That's no surprise. The last time these here parts had a quake of significant size to REALLY shake things was ........ well, pretty much never.

Okay, you say, we're on the coast, we must get tsunamis right? After all, everywhere you look you see those nifty blue Tsunami Evacuation signs, right? Well, the last time this little slice of God's Country had a tsunami of any size was ...... well, also pretty much never.

Okay, I am not saying we have never ever had a major earthquake or a tsunami in the Ketchikan area. But as far as I can tell, the last one was probably in the Mesozoic era.

(yes, yes, I am sure there is a geologist or two out there who will tell me that there have been earthquakes and tidal waves here more recently. But no one seems to remember them. And now that I am getting older (senior tax exemption here I come!), I can say "not in my lifetime" with the certainty that that has actually been a relatively long period of time, if not geologically speaking. The only contemporary events that can actually be measured in geologic time are committee meetings and youth soccer practices).

There was a big quake on the BC coast a few years ago. The tsunami that roared through the Ketchikan harbor was measured at six inches. There was a decent size quake out by Craig a couple of years ago. My house creaked a wee bit. We just don't - knock on wood - get those type of "events" here.

And I would recognize one if I felt it. I was on an upper floor of a hotel in Anchorage a decade ago when one rattled my teeth. And I was on a much, much, much higher floor in a Los Angeles skyscraper many years ago when one rattled a lot more than my teeth. Talk about a feeling of terror, the building is swaying back and forth like a drunk palm tree and you have nowhere to go but down. Way down.

But back to Ketchikan. We were inundated by a tsunami of Internet concern over our well-being after this most recent quake made national news. - More...
Monday AM - February 01, 2016

jpg Editorial Cartoon: Iowa Caucus Craziness

Editorial Cartoon: Iowa Caucus Craziness
By Steve Sack ©2016, The Minneapolis Star Tribune
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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letter GAS PRICES IN KETCHIKAN By Kenneth G. Reese - Everyone wonders why we pay so much for gas here. It's simple, because the petroleum company here likes to rip you off. That is why. Because they can. - More...
Monday AM - February 01, 2016

letter CALL TO REVOLUTION By David G. Hanger - "These are the times that try men’s souls.” We are betrayed; are being betrayed every minute, every hour of every day by a state legislature purportedly elected to serve the people, that is no longer a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but rather a sordidly sold out and corrupt mess that is of the oil companies, by the oil companies, and for the oil companies. This government has forfeited its legitimacy and must be expunged and replaced by an institution that in fact represents the state of Alaska and its citizens. What this government has intentionally done is to peonize, impoverish, and bankrupt its entire citizenry. By intentionally forfeiting essentially all of its current revenue sources it has left a financial hole in the road that will require 80% of the income of every Alaskan to fill. That is not a joke. The crash will be irreversible as early as January 1, 2018. - More...
Tuesday AM - January 26, 2016

letter Let's Cut Legislators Lavish Accommodations By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Legislators should be held to a high standard. They should lead by example in this fiscal crisis by cutting their own per diem and getting their work done in a timely manner. Legislators will primarily need to address our fiscal situation this session. The per-barrel price for Alaskan crude is below $30, so we now have a projected budget deficit above 3.5 billion dollars. Despite the fact that I voted to cut the budget by $900 million during the last legislative session, cuts will continue to be part of the solution to our budget crisis. I've co-sponsored two pieces of budget-cutting legislation. One will cut government spending on legislative per diem. The other will hold legislators accountable to a ninety day session. This is common sense for any fiscal conservative. - More...
Friday AM - January 22, 2016

letter 50th Anniversary of Arbor Day in Alaska By Laura Charlton - My name is Laura Charlton. I am a 25+ year resident of Ketchikan, a Registered Consulting Arborist, and also current Chair of the Alaska Community Forest Council. We have put together a number of small grants offering money to non profits 501.C3 or municipalities to help communities celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Arbor Day in Alaska. - More...
Friday AM - January 22, 2016

letter Navy Boats In Peril By Donald Moskowitz - As a former Navy enlisted and Navy officer, I am disappointed with the capture of our two riverine boats and crews by the Iranians in the Persian Gulf. - More...
Friday AM - January 22, 2016

letter What We Heard During Six AMHS Community Engagement Meetings By Michael Neussl - The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) held six community engagement meetings across coastal Alaska last month. During this time the department also held numerous meetings with AMHS vessel and terminal staff. The purpose of the meetings was to involve Alaskans in the decision making process that AMHS is facing due to the reality of a declining operating budget. - More...
Monday PM - January 18, 2016

letter THE STATE FINANCIAL CRISIS IS A SHAM & A SCAM AND SO IS THE PROPOSED SOLUTION By David G Hanger - The average price paid for North Slope oil in fiscal year 2015 was $73 a barrel which exceeded by a fair margin the state’s forecast of $67 a barrel. In the meantime in the second half of calendar year 2015 North Slope oil production was 20,000 barrels per day more than last year. (Figures from State of Alaska, various reports.) Total production levels for 2014 exceeded 95.25% of the production levels of 2013. - More...
Wednesday PM - January 13, 2016

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