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A Closer Look: Dr. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA

September 1, 2009

NOAA-Dr.-Jane-Lubchenco-820092Dr. Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, spent a week in Alaska recently to gather information and input on the health of the nation’s oceans. In a news story aired on Alaska News Nightly a couple weeks ago, she talked with APRN’s Lori Townsend about the Obama Administration’s plans to explore new policy for oceans. Today, on A Closer Look, KSKA presents Lori Townsend’s complete 30 minute interview with Dr. Lubchenco.

Download Audio (MP3)

Lori Townsend’s list of interview questions for Dr. Lubchenco
Recorded August 20, 2009
KSKA/APRN Radio Studios

You’ve been in Alaska for several days now, what have you seen or learned that might change your approach to leading the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration?

You mentioned you’ve been in Alaska in the past, what’s changed since the last time you were here?

You’re in Anchorage to help launch the first Ocean Policy Task Force Public meeting. What is the purpose of the task force and what are you hoping to accomplish at the meeting?

One of the goals of the Ocean Policy Task Force is”restoration” of our oceans. That sounds like a tall order. Is that even possible?

There are wide variations in sea ice loss and ocean warming models.Are you confident that science has a good grasp of the implications of how warming will impact oceans? particularly the near term implications in the next decade or 2?

Ocean acidification is an issue that’s gotten a lot of attention in Alaska recently. How high a priority is the problem for NOAA and what is the agency doing to address it?

Do you think enough Americans even understand what ocean acidification is?

A UAF professor just identified acidification as a huge threat to Northern fisheries in the next decade. Do you agree?

Is there enough monitoring of the problem currently taking place?

NOAA is currently reviewing petitions to list the spotted ringed and bearded seal under the Endangered Species Act. A finding was due May 28th. Why isn’t that decision out yet?

NOAA is supposed to release its critical habitat rule for the Endangered Cook Inlet Beluga by October. Why haven’t we seen a proposed rule yet?

Why does NOAA have such trouble meeting deadlines under the Endangered Species Act?

Is there a conflict with NOAA looking after commercial fisheries and also after mammals like seals and sea lions, who also depend on the fish? For example, the decline in Pollock stocks in the Bering Sea has been cited as a potential reason for the dramatic decline in fur seal numbers on the Pribilof Islands.

King Salmon returns have been low on the Yukon river, which has been devastating for people who depend on the fish to fill their freezers. Many blame the Pollock fishing fleet, who end up taking salmon as by catch. Is there anything NOAA can do to address that problem?

Generally, in many of Alaska’s rivers and in parts of the Pacific Northwest, salmon returns have been abysmally low and unmet escapement requirements for Canada have caused some fishery closures in Alaska this year. There is speculation that it may be over fishing, disease, warming

conditions, acidification. What kind of priority is NOAA giving this problem and what is current research pointing to?

What can be done about it?

NOAA is the agency that represents Subsistence Whaling to the International Whaling Commission. With all of the current focus on development and shipping lanes opening up in the Arctic, what , if any, protections are in place or are being proposed to protect the Bowhead migration and subsistence whaling?

Today US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke announced a ban on expansion of commercial fishing in arctic waters. The plan also identifies species that would eventually be harvested, arctic cod and snow crab. What do you think the future is for fishing in the arctic?

Fish don’t recognize international borders. How cooperative is the relationship between the US and other arctic nations when it comes to protecting fisheries?

How do you see this changing as competition for arctic resources heats up?

Fish farms are a concern to commercial fishermen, but some consumers don’t care where the fish comes from as long as its cheap. Is there pressure to allow more off shore farming and what do you think the future looks like for these operations?

Do you think there is a way to do it safely?

The Arctic is a sink for toxins and pollutants that flow in from other countries. Many of the toxins found in the tissue samples of marine animals reveal toxins that have been banned in the US for decades. What is the US doing to address this and what is being done to encourage other nations to stop using these toxic compounds?

Commerce Secretary Locke announced today a 40 million dollar seabed mapping effort. Environmental organizations are creating data bases of WWII marine wrecks, there is growing concern that these 50 plus year old corroding wrecks are becoming a major source of ocean pollution. One data base lists 13 million tons of aircraft carriers, battleships and more than 300 tanker and oiler wreckage in just the Pacific. Is NOAA involved in monitoring this situation and beyond the announcement regarding mapping what do you think can and should be done about these polluting wrecks? (A project of the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), through its Pacific Ocean Pollution Prevention Program),

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