Rachel Waldholz, KCAW - Sitka
The federal government is proposing to remove most humpback whales from the endangered species list. Forty-five years after the whales were first listed, federal scientists say that most humpback populations – including those common in Alaska – are stable and growing.
This spring, Sitka artist Peter Williams took a trip to New York City, to show his work during fashion week. A designer and marine mammal hunter, Williams makes everything from hats to earrings from sea otter and sealskin. He’s been trying to break into the lucrative fashion world for years, and he’s got a larger goal in mind – bringing Alaska Native designs to luxury buyers worldwide. Williams says that one way to save a traditional art form, is to create a market for it.
Most years, the sac roe herring fishery in Sitka means boats filling the harbor, crew members filling the bars, seiners jostling for position within sight of town, and spotter planes in close formation overhead. But this year fishermen voted to abandon the competitive fishery in favor of a co-op. That meant a much smaller footprint, with fewer boats, crewmen, tenders, and spotter pilots. The reason? Low prices for roe, for starters. And a strong US dollar that makes all American exports more expensive.
The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery is a quieter affair this year, as the fleet conducts its first fully cooperative fishery since the mid-90s.
The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery will be on two-hour notice starting 10 a.m. Wednesday, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game announced this Tuesday afternoon. A test sample taken from a body of herring west of Black Rock showed about 7% mature roe, which is low for the commercial fishery. But the Department said that percentage could rise rapidly over the next few days as less mature herring separate out from those ready to spawn.
The Eyak is back in Sitka. Ten days after the 80-foot tender and mail boat ran aground and sank just north of the Goddard hot springs, it’s back afloat — after a virtual alphabet soup of state and federal agencies and local companies worked together to salvage it.
The Tongass Advisory Committee is meeting for the fifth time in Juneau this week. The committee is tasked with hammering out how the Forest Service should handle the Obama Administration’s transition away from old-growth logging and to a new focus on younger trees. But, for some people the most important questions are the ones the committee isn’t supposed to address.
Four people were rescued from the F/V Eyak early Monday morning after the boat went aground near Calligan Island, just north of the Goddard hot springs.
Like nearly all the great whales, humpbacks were heavily hunted. And one question researchers have grappled with is how many animals there were before the whaling fleets took their toll. To solve this mystery, it turns out, you have to take a trip back in time, and into the secret history of Soviet whaling.
Humpback whales may be coming off the endangered species list soon – federal officials are expected to announce a decision within the next few weeks.
Regardless of what they decide, one thing is clear: without whales and other marine mammals, there might not even be an endangered species list.
In the first of a series exploring humpback whales and the Endangered Species Act, KCAW reporter Rachel Waldholz and biologist Ellen Chenoweth explain how one of the nation’s most enduring environmental laws emerged from the office of one of its least revered presidents.
When David Mahaffey was installed as the Orthodox Bishop of Alaska in a ceremony in Sitka this past February, he became the 16th leader of America’s oldest Orthodox diocese.
Bishop David has now been on the job for nine months. He returned to Sitka this fall.
Sitka’s commercial herring fleet should expect to catch significantly fewer fish this spring. That’s the news from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which released its preliminary harvest level for the 2015 Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery on Friday.
The Sitka School District has a big fan: President Barack Obama.
Sitka Schools Superintendent Mary Wegner was in Washington D.C. on Wednesday for a White House summit on technology and education.
The first time Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins ran for State House, in 2012 at the tender age of 23, he squeaked through, beating Haines Republican Bill Thomas by just 32 votes. The candidates had to wait weeks for the final results. Not this time. On Tuesday night, Kreiss-Tomkins, now 25, won convincingly.
The Alaska Supreme Court last week dismissed a case brought by six young Alaskans, demanding the state take action on climate change. The suit was one of several filed nationwide, and the first to take its argument to a state supreme court. In dismissing the case, the Court said that climate policy isn’t an issue the judiciary can decide – it must go through the political process.
But, for the young plaintiffs and the nonprofit supporting them, the ruling included some silver linings.
Southeast Alaska’s commercial troll fishing fleet will have to stand down for a few days, starting this weekend.