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December 04, 2021

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Fish Factor: Pacific halibut stock appears on an upswing By LAINE WELCH - The Pacific halibut stock appears to be on an upswing and could result in increased catches for most regions in 2022.

At the interim meeting of the International Pacific Halibut Commission last week, scientists gave an overview of the summer setline survey that targets nearly 2,000 stations over three-months. The Pacific resource is modelled as a single stock extending from northern California to the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea, including all inside waters of the Strait of Georgia and the Salish Sea.

The survey results showed that coastwide combined numbers per setline increased by 17% from 2020 to 2021, reversing declines over the past four years. The coastwide weights of legal sized halibut (over 32 inches) also increased by 4%. 

“We’re seeing some new trends this year,” said Dr. Ian Stewart, lead scientist for the IPHC which has managed the fishery for the U.S. and Canada since 1923.  “The first is we saw some improving trends from our survey that correspond to a shift both in the fish and in the fishery to younger fish.”

“The current stock reflects less productivity from the growth of fish that are already in the stock than from the numbers of fish that are recruiting into the stock, Stewart explained. “And this is the opposite of what we’ve seen over the last several years. The survey and the fishery have been accessing fish that were growing older. That’s now reversed for this year, reflecting this change from older fish to younger fish moving into the stock,” he said. 

The younger fish are from a 2012 year class that will be increasingly important to future spawning projections.

“However, we are just now getting a more solid read on the magnitude of this year class and the information in the upcoming years will continue to improve our understanding of just how strong it is,” Stewart said.

Another trend is a shift in halibut distribution back to the Central and Western Gulf of Alaska (Region 3) where most of the stock occurs.

“That stock distribution is more similar to 10 to15 years ago than we’ve seen over the last several years,” Stewart said, adding that the survey showed a 28% increase in halibut abundance in that region.

“We started to see an increase in 2020 but it’s become much more pronounced leading up to a proportion of the stock in Region 3 that is larger than anything we’ve seen in almost a decade, and particularly in the Western Central Gulf,” he said. 

Stewart called the 2021 survey “the most effective we have put on the water with the largest information content.” 

The coastwide halibut catch limit for this year was increased by 6.5% to 39 million pounds for all users. For commercial fishermen in Alaska, the catch limit was set at 19.6 million pounds and all regions except for the Bering Sea saw increased catches.

IPHC data through November 1 show the total take by all users was nearing 38 million pounds.  Alaska commercial fishermen had taken 92% of their allotment and recreational catches were estimated at 7.6 million pounds, up by 43% from 2020. Halibut bycatch for this year was at 3.5 million pounds, down 23%.

The fishery was extended by one month this year from March 6 to December 7. Final halibut tallies for 2022 will be set at the IPHC annual meeting January 24-28 in Bellevue, WA. - More...
Saturday AM - December 04, 2021

Southeast Alaska: New annual SeaBank report makes economic case for protecting Southeast Alaska’s coastal ecosystems - In November, the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust released its third annual SeaBank report which quantifies the value of the ecosystem services generated by Southeast Alaska’s rich natural capital and also identifies potential risks to them, including climate change, industrial logging, and industrial trawl fishery bycatch. The 2020 report focuses on recent research related to climate change impacts on Southeast Alaska, including projections for much warmer temperatures under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, as well as provides recommended mitigation measures that would help protect SeaBank’s green and blue carbon.

The Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust coined the term “SeaBank” to describe Southeast Alaska’s diverse coastline, which extends 500 miles from Metlakatla to Yakutat and its interconnected network of land, water, vegetation, wildlife, resources, economies and culture. It launched the SeaBank program in 2017 to serve several functions, including increasing public awareness about Southeast Alaska’s natural bank, measuring the annual capital that this bank provides, and quantifying the value generated for local, national, and global beneficiaries. 

“As our region weighs resource management decisions and develops adaptation strategies for climate change, we think it’s critical that stakeholders and policy makers factor in the true value of SeaBank’s ecosystem services so that we can make informed long-term decisions that ensure more sustainable economies and local communities,” said Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust founder and Sitka-based commercial fisherman, Linda Behnken. 

Some highlights from the 2020 SeaBank report include: - More...
Saturday AM - December 04, 2021

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Alaska: 658 Alaska deaths from Jan. 2020 - Sept. 2021 caused by or associated with COVID-19; Underlying medical conditions & age contributed to death rates Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN - According to date contributed by Alaska Epidemiology Department's Katherine Newell, DPhil, MPH and Megan Tompkins, MPH, Alaska Section of Epidemiology, during January 1, 2020, through September 30, 2021, there were 109,749 cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection among Alaska residents reported to the Alaska Section of Epidemiology.

Data on underlying medical conditions were obtained from contact tracers and data analysts during interviews, and hospital record reviews. Following the recent surge in cases, comorbidity data was unavailable for 16% of deaths. For deaths where these were missing, Newell and Tompkins aimed to supplement data using death certificate review where possible (n=33). The preliminary data in this release was noted to be subject to change.

Newell and Tompkins wrote in a recently released Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin December 01, 2021, it was determined that 658 deaths from Jan. 01, 2020 - September 2021 were caused by or associated with COVID-19 (90.3 per 100,000 population). Of those, 397 (60%) were male, 517 (79%) required hospitalization, 244 (37%) were admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) and 82 (13%) deaths occurred in residents of a licensed long-term care or assisted living facility.

Death rates have increased substantially in Alaska following introduction of the Delta variant in June 2021. Death rates were reported highest among persons over 80 years of age. - More...
Saturday AM - December 04, 2021

National: Supreme Court signals shift on abortion – but will it strike down Roe or leave it to states to decide when ‘personhood’ occurs? By MORGAN MARIETTA - The Supreme Court justices signaled a potential major shift on abortion law on Dec. 1, 2021. Hearing arguments in a case that could fundamentally alter abortion rights and regulations throughout the nation, the six conservative justices who hold the majority in the highest court seemed divided: Would they overturn the core right to abortion entirely or would they allow abortion to be limited by the states to the early stages of pregnancy?

In either approach, the court seemed to be moving toward the position that some decisions may be left to individual states rather than established by the Supreme Court. And although Supreme Court decisions cannot always be predicted by oral arguments alone, either outcome would represent a historic move away from the landmark precedent of Roe v. Wade, which has set out Americans’ constitutional right to abortion for almost 50 years.

Since that 1973 decision, a powerful legal movement has sought to overturn Roe v. Wade, while abortion rights advocates have fought to protect it.

The arguments at the court on Dec. 1 suggest that there is a third path the justices could – and might – take. The court could focus its ruling on a narrower and more neglected aspect of the ruling in Roe: the court’s understanding of the facts of fetal personhood.

Roe not a monolith

There were two separate rulings in Roe:

1) The Constitution protects a right to privacy, which encompasses the abortion decision.

2) A fetus is not a person in the early stages of pregnancy. Personhood emerges around the time of viability at approximately six months, which justifies a compelling state interest at that point.

This is why individual states are forbidden under current rulings from outlawing abortions in the first or second trimester of pregnancy, but can make the procedure illegal during the third trimester after the viability of the fetus.

The ongoing debate at the Supreme Court is less about the existence of the abortion right and more about the second ruling in Roe v. Wade in 1973 – that the right is limited by the emerging personhood of a fetus.

The state of Mississippi has redefined the emergence of personhood to be at 15 weeks, not 24, and outlawed abortions before that point.

Everything hinges on the judgment of personhood. - More...
Saturday AM - December 04, 2021


Alaska: New Report: U.S. Should Create National Strategy by End of 2022 to Reduce Its Increasing Contribution to Global Ocean Plastic Waste; Report estimates 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enters ocean each year - Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN - The United States should create a national strategy by the end of 2022 to reduce its contribution to plastic waste in the ocean, including substantially reducing the amount of solid waste generated in the U.S., says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

This new report also recommends the U.S. establish a nationally coordinated and expanded monitoring system to track plastic pollution in order to understand the scale and sources of the U.S. plastic waste problem, set reduction and management priorities, and measure progress in addressing it.

U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island.) and Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey.), and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon) and Don Young (R-Alaska) - champions of the 2020 Save Our Seas (SOS) 2.0 Act, the most comprehensive marine debris legislation ever - Thursday welcomed a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine entitled “Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste.”

The report, mandated by the SOS 2.0 Act and sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), synthesizes all existing research on marine debris and presents a stark assessment of the amount of plastic that enters the world’s oceans.

The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act is composed of three main pieces:

  1. Strengthening the United States’ domestic marine debris response capability with a Marine Debris Foundation, a genius prize for innovation, and new research to tackle the issue.
  2. Enhancing global engagement to combat marine debris, including formalizing U.S. policy on international cooperation, enhancing federal agency outreach to other countries, and exploring the potential for a new international agreement on the challenge. 
  3. Improving domestic infrastructure to prevent marine debris through new grants for and studies of waste management and mitigation.

According to this new report, an estimated eight million metric tons (MMT) of plastic waste enters the world’s oceans each year - the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck of plastic waste into the ocean every minute. If current practices continue, the amount of plas­tic waste discharged into the ocean could reach up to 53 MMT per year by 2030, roughly half of the total weight of fish caught from the ocean annually. The study’s key recommendation is that the United States create a com­prehensive federal research and policy strategy that focuses on interventions across the entire plastic life cycle to reduce the U.S. contribu­tion of plastic waste to the environment, including the ocean.

Champions of the 2020 Save Our Seas (SOS) 2.0 Act, commented on this new report. - More...
Saturday AM - December 04, 2021

Permanent Protections in View for Bristol Bay

Permanent Protections in View for Bristol Bay
Drift-netters anchored up in Bristol Bay. 


Alaska: Permanent Protections in View for Bristol Bay By BJORN DIHLE - For more than two decades, those who care about Bristol Bay — the largest sockeye salmon run on the planet — have been fighting the proposed Pebble Mine, a massive open-pit mine and waste storage proposed for the headwaters of the region. And now, it seems at long last that the end is in sight.

Pebble’s history in Bristol Bay is long, full of jumps forward and backward. For the last year, however, protections for this one-of-a-kind region have been moving forward.

On November 25, 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied Pebble Limited Partnership a key permit for the proposed Pebble Mine Project. The project, they determined, did not comply with Clean Waters Act guidelines, and was contrary to public interest. The vast majority of Bristol Bay residents, as well as fishermen and conservationists, celebrated. Geologists consider the Pebble deposit the largest untapped resource of gold and copper in the world, estimating it to be worth around $500 billion. With that amount of money at stake, the fight isn’t over until permanent protections are in place — even with this permit denied, Pebble could still become a reality.

Veteran bear viewing guide Drew Hamilton and veteran bear hunting guide Tia Shoemaker couldn’t agree more that Bristol Bay needs permanent protections. Hamilton calls Bristol Bay “the overlap in ecology and economy that will protect, support and sustain Alaskans in the future, just as it has done for tens of thousands of years,” adding, “It’s a unique and wild place that needs to be protected from politicians who can’t see past the next election cycle and view Alaska as some sort of natural resource warehouse.”

Tia Shoemaker calls Bristol Bay the “Serengeti of Alaska — truly one of the last, great game fields.” She’s calling on hunters to protect their own interests by defending one of the most ecologically rich and pristine wild places of Earth.

“Habitat destruction and the ever-growing need for 'more' are among the biggest threats hunters face today. Without permanent protection for Bristol Bay, the threat of an open-pit mine proposed by foreign-owned companies looms over us,” Shoemaker said.

So, how does Bristol Bay get permanent protections? Bristol Bay organizations including United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Bristol Bay Native Association and Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation see it as a two-part process, the first part of which can — and should — happen as soon as possible. The first step is the Environmental Protection Agency solidifying Clean Waters Act Section 404(c) protections, preventing mining industries from using the headwaters of Bristol Bay “as a disposal site, whenever [the EPA] determines… that the discharge of such materials into such area will have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas), wildlife, or recreational areas.”- More...
Saturday AM - December 04, 2021

Thousands of golden eagles depend on Alaska

Thousands of golden eagles depend on Alaska
golden eagle eyes a photographer after being captured as part of a population study near Gunsight Mountain between Palmer and Glennallen.


Alaska Science: Thousands of golden eagles depend on Alaska BY NED ROZELL - The number of golden eagles that spend summers in Alaska is more than three times the previous estimate, biologists just determined.

At least 12,700 of the 12-pound predatory birds migrate to Alaska each summer in order to create new golden eagles. That number is about one-quarter of all the golden eagles in North America.

Several Alaska scientists and one from HawkWatch International in Utah calculated the new estimate to improve upon an old one (about 4,000 birds) that scientists thought was too low. That was especially the case after biologists Carol McIntyre and Steve Lewis in 2014 counted more than 1,300 migrating golden eagles from just one spot over nine days of watching in the Mentasta Mountains.

Authors of the December 2021 paper, “Golden Eagle Abundance in Alaska,” are not saying there is a recent golden eagle boom in Alaska. The new number, reported in the Journal of Raptor Research, is what they believe to be a more accurate estimate.

Travis Booms is a biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks who helped design and execute the study, based in Southcentral Alaska. Knowing roughly how many animals exist helps managers find out if that creature is doing well or needs special protection.

Chocolate-brown golden eagles are about the same size as bald eagles. Instead of congregating around rivers like bald eagles, goldens prefer open country of mountain slopes and tundra landscapes. 

There, the birds use curved talons the length of human fingers to puncture their prey, which includes ground squirrels, ptarmigan, snowshoe hares and sometimes even caribou and muskoxen calves.

To come up with a better count of the golden eagles visiting Alaska in summer, Booms and his co-workers chose to look at birds that fly a corridor between the Chugach and Talkeetna mountains.

A good place to set up was near Gunsight Mountain, about halfway between Palmer and Glennallen. There, for a few weeks beginning in mid-March from 2014 to 2018, the biologists and technicians counted golden eagles returning northward from their wintering spots. 

They also captured the birds by setting out unsalvageable roadkill carcasses and then firing a gun that threw a net over hungry migrating eagles that landed on the bait.  - More...
Saturday AM - December 04, 2021




DAVE KIFFER: Introducing: The Ketchikan to Haines highway! - Recently, a potential visitor to Our Fair Salmon City asked if it was possible to make a day trip from Ketchikan to see Denali," the tallest mountain in North America."

Yes, he wrote it in exactly that over-emphasized way as if he was telling me something I didn't already know. Like maybe I'd missed the memo that Denali is "the tallest mountain in North America."

I did know, of course, but I let it slide because I just find it humorous to humor to humorless.  

Anyway, you know the tone. And now that visitors are returning, sort of, we are hearing it again.

The "I know more than you even though you live there" tone.

Maybe it is just their natural tone.  

 Maybe they just can't help "tourist-splaining,"  

 Maybe they stayed in the Holiday Inn Express at SeaTac on their way here.  - More...
Saturday AM - December 04, 2021


RICH MANIERI: WHAT, EXACTLY, WILL GET YOU FIRED FROM CNN? - I’ve never been fired from a job, which I’m sure will now trigger calls from a portion of the readership for my immediate ouster.

Anyway, I’ve quit several jobs but was never fired. I attribute this largely to my ability to make myself useful. Early in my TV news reporting career, I’d volunteer for any job, whether I knew how to do it or not. Call it misguided confidence.

“We need someone to do weather tonight,” declared my first news director.

“I’ll do it!”

“Great. You’ve got an hour to get ready.”

Of course, I had no idea what I was doing but I was confident – clueless but confident – that I would figure it out, which I eventually did. However, I am thankful that no one has ever unearthed tapes of my earliest weather segments, which I hope have been burned, the ashes scattered to the four winds. - More...
Saturday AM - December 04, 2021


FINANCIAL FOCUS: Retirees fear becoming a burden Provided By BEN EDWARDS, AAMS® - It’s human nature to want to make things easier for our loved ones – and to have great concern about adding any stress to their lives. In fact, 72% of retirees say that one of their biggest fears is becoming a burden on their families, according to the Edward Jones/Age Wave Four Pillars of the New Retirement study. How can you address this fear?

First, don’t panic. In all the years leading up to your retirement, there’s a lot you can do to help maintain your financial independence and avoid burdening your grown children or other family members. Consider these suggestions:

• Increase contributions to your retirement plans and health savings account. The greater your financial resources, the greater your financial independence – and the less likely you would ever burden your family. So, contribute as much as you can afford to your IRA, your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan. At a minimum, put in enough to earn your employer’s matching contributions, if offered, and increase your contributions whenever your salary goes up. You may also want to contribute to a health savings account (HSA), if it’s available. - More....
Saturday AM - December 04, 2021

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Political rage: America survived a decade of anger in the 18th century – but can it now? By MAURIZIO VALSANIA - Americans have an anger problem.

People rage at each other. They are angry at public officials for shutting down parts of society. Or for the opposite reason because they aren’t doing enough to curb the virus. Democrats vent their rage at Republicans. And Republicans treat Democrats not as opponents, but as enemies.

Meanwhile, the American founders are being literally taken off of their pedestals in a rejection of the history they represent. And, of course, a violent mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in early 2021, trying to disrupt that most fundamental of U.S. institutions, the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

But public rage and hysteria in America aren’t new. The 1790s, as well, were a period of political violence.

Over that entire decade, political opponents pelted each other with the accusation that they had lost the true American principles. Just as today, delusion stood in place of reality.

Despite that decade of rage, however, America came together as a nation. Today’s rage-filled country may not end the same way.

Strong passions, angry mobs

Following a 1791 tax on whiskey, western Pennsylvania was set ablaze. Angry mobs torched buildings. Federal tax inspectors were beaten up, stripped naked and tarred and feathered. A few people died.

Political discourse was similarly inflamed. Passions were strong. Articles appeared in newspapers that portrayed President George Washington as a scoundrel, a swindler, the king of all Pied Pipers.

“If ever a nation was debauched by a man, the American nation has been debauched by WASHINGTON,” read the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser from December 1796. “If ever a nation has suffered from the improper influence of a man, the American nation has suffered from the influence of WASHINGTON.”

One could also hear Virginians drinking to the toast “A speedy Death to General Washington.”

Thomas Jefferson noticed that times had changed. He had seen warm debates and high political passions before, but never such levels of bigotry: “Men who have been intimate all their lives cross the streets to avoid meeting, and turn their heads another way, lest they should be obliged to touch their hat,” he wrote in June 1797. - More...
Saturday AM - December 04, 2021
jpg Opinion

Facing the Facts About Gun Violence in the U.S. By Laura Finley - A day after yet another tragic school shooting, I just finished teaching a criminology class about gun violence and how to reduce it in the U.S. I found that my students have many misconceptions about the scope and nature of the problem. I believe they are not alone, and that these misconceptions that many others may hold work against the development of thoughtful and effective policy. Although whole volumes can and have been written about this, I share here just a few observations.

First, many have no idea how many people are injured or killed by gun violence in the U.S. annually. According to the CDC, more than 45,000 people were killed by gun violence in the U.S. in 2020, an increase in recent decades. This is an average of more than 120 gun-related deaths per day. It includes a 30 percent increase in homicides from the previous year. Between 2015 and 2019 there were 2,606 gun deaths by law enforcement alone. These numbers should be shocking, with U.S. gun-related homicide rates 25 times greater than other wealthy nations.

Second, most are unaware that the biggest percentage of gun-related fatalities come from suicide.  Nearly two-thirds of deaths by gun are suicides, an average of approximately 64 per day. Likewise, accidental injuries and deaths are far more frequent in the U.S. than in other wealthy countries. A study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University found that between 2009 and 2017, there was an annual average of 85,700 ER visits for non-fatal gun injuries. ABC Newsdeveloped a Gun Violence Tracker and found that for the week of November 19 to 25, 2021, there 345 deaths and 623 injuries due to firearms in the U.S. 

Third, the cost of gun violence is astronomical. The U.S. spends nearly one billion dollars annually on immediate healthcare costs alone, according to the U.S. General Accountability Office. The costs are far greater when you factor in long-term physical and mental health care, as well as criminal justice and other costs. - More...
Saturday AM - December 04, 2021

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