The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District school board is fine-tuning the concussion policy for all student athletes. Members have been discussing the slight changes since August and action from the board is expected next month.
The district goes to great lengths to make sure student athletes and their parents are aware of the potential dangers. The rules in place for the athletic departments require training for coaches, refresher courses every three years and ensuring all equipment is in good condition.
The district educates its own staff as well and that includes the school board. Board Vice President Liz Downing said in a previous interview that component came from the state level a few years ago and brought a more defined policy with it.
“If a student has any possibility of having a concussion, they’re off the field. They are tested. I also serve on the wellness committee for the district and it is critical that we have safety measures in place with the padding and equipment. And then also with follow up, and making sure that students have adequate medical care if something should happen,” Downing said.
She said this is a policy the district is always looking at because new examples and research come out all the time. Board President Joe Arness said the members are always willing to listen to people with concerns to make sure the policy protects students while not hindering play.
“You do hear these conversations from time to time and there is concern. Any kind of sport, basketball, soccer, football, hockey, any of them, kids can get injured. To some extent that’s just part of life. To some extent we have a responsibility to do our best to see to it that injuries don’t happen just out of carelessness,” Arness said.
The main change deals with what happens after it’s suspected a student has a concussion. The district and state of Alaska will both require a student to be given permission to come back and play by a “qualified person.” A doctor has always been under that umbrella, but now the legislature will allow athletic trainers to determine when a student comes back to competition after a concussion. And the district requires a doctor’s release as well in each case.
Concerns about concussions have become a major part of the conversation in the last few years; for football especially. Downing said that concern will likely remain unless there’s a change in the culture of sports.
“One of the areas I would love to see us move towards is more non-competitive, intramural play…. That’s not to take something away from sport. There’s so much that is valuable about being part of a team, by making that extra effort to help your team win. So this is a balancing point,” she said.
The board will finish refining the policy at its meeting in January when members are expected to approve the measure.
GCI is in the process of transitioning to 3G data service for smart phones in the Bethel area. But as many users know, the internet isn’t always the fastest or in some cases, available at all.
GCI admits it has had problems with tower installations in Bethel, and had hoped to have 3G in place by now. It will not be deployed until February of next year. Ten nearby villages will not get it until next summer, according to David Morris, a spokesman for GCI.
“These things aren’t as simple as going to a store and buying something and turning it on. There’s a lot of grooming that takes place to get the signal overlap in the right way and modulate in the right way and a few other things,” Morris said. “We had some similar challenges in Dillingham this summer when we were converting Dillingham to 3G. It’s unfortunately part of the process of continuing to advance the technology.”
Shawna Divelbliss is a Bethel resident and GCI customer. She pays for cable, internet, and three phone bills. But she says her phone data doesn’t work. To connect, she has to log on to wifi- which she also gets through GCI.
“The real issue with me is they charge me $19.99 for data on my phone and then I come home and pay them again for wi-fi service at my house. I had a $600 bill to access the internet for my business,” Divelbliss said.. “So I’m paying twice.”
Divelbliss calls GCI every month and has gotten her 60 dollars in data fees returned along with some extra internet service. GCI’s David Morris confirms that the company has been issuing credits.
“Customers, if they believe they are not getting the type of speeds they should be getting should call into customer service and do them on a case by case basis, that’s really the best way to handle things,” Morris said.
Divelbliss posted on facebook’s Bethel Bargains page and started a chain reaction of people chiming in with their own GCI data stories. Over 114 comments had been added since her first post, which she wrote after months of frustration.
“..Just laid it all out there and I am so thrilled that so many people have gone on there and have not only called and kept with it, but have and documented all the different things that GCI has told them and all the different lies. It’s all documented on that feed right now,” Divelbliss said.
GCI’s contact information is available here.
Fort Greely’s missile-defense base could get a big boost in spending this year if the U.S. Senate approves a measure worked out last week by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
The Senate this week will consider approving a federal-budget bill and National Defense Authorization Act, which calls for $80 million in construction at the missile base. That’s in addition to upgrades at the base that will increase the number of interceptor missiles there from the current 26 to 40.
Belt-tightening fever in Washington has been putting a lot of pressure on the Pentagon budget over the past couple of years. But Matt Felling, a spokesman for Senator Lisa Murkowski, says the bipartisan deals lawmakers cut last week favor a buildup at Fort Greely’s missile-defense base.
“Greely will benefit, and that will be good for our ground-based missile support up in Alaska,” Felling said.
But, those benefits depend on the Senate approving missile-defense funding in two measures. Those are the federal-budget bill passed by the House on Friday. The other is the Defense authorization measure, which sets Pentagon spending policy. That measure calls for construction of an 80-million-dollar mechanical engineering building at Greely’s missile field 1.
That’s one of three missile fields at the base, and it’s been shut down for more than four years because of water damage in its underground corridors.
Missile Defense Agency spokesman Richard Lehner says that damage was cleaned over the summer and fall in preparation for upgrades at missile field 1 that’ll take place over the next three years. When that’s done, six interceptor missiles will be placed in silos there, and another eight will go to missile field 2.
Felling says Murkowski and others believe Greely’s missile base should be expanded even more. He says the senator sees that as more practical than a competing proposal to build another missile-defense base in the northeastern United States at an estimated cost of $3.6 billion.
“It would be far cheaper to add or make some upgrades at Greely than it would to buy real estate in New England and build something brand new, from scratch,” Felling said.
But the performance of the ground-based interceptor system remain unproven. The interceptors have failed to knock out dummy enemy missiles in 8 of 16 tests, most recently in July.
The 2014 defense budget would invest nearly $190 million for missile and radar upgrades to improve the ground-based system.
Murkowski says further expansion at Greely may well hinge on the Pentagon’s ability to demonstrate the ground-based system works. So she says there’s a lot riding on the next test, scheduled for March.
A state board has fined Greenpeace $15,000 for traveling through Alaskan waters without a marine pilot.
The violation occurred during Greenpeace’s “Save the Arctic” tour to protest Shell’s oil exploration in July 2012.
Greenpeace had sent the Esperanza, their 237-foot, Dutch-flagged research vessel. The Esperanza were supposed to study corals and sealife in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
Along the way, the vessel stopped into a few Alaskan towns. That’s where it ran into trouble.
Crystal Dooley is a coordinator for the Alaska Board of Marine Pilots. She says that for large, foreign vessels, “pilotage is compulsory at all entrances from seaward to Alaska’s bays, sounds, rivers, straits, inlets, harbors, ports, or other estuaries or passages within three nautical miles of the state’s coastline.”
Dooley says the Board of Marine Pilots got an anonymous tip that the Esperanza may have broken that rule at Point Hope.
Dooley says they looked up data from the vessel’s Automatic Identification System receiver. It showed that the Esperanza anchored inside the mandatory pilotage zone.
The Board of Marine Pilots voted to fine Greenpeace in October.
Greenpeace attorney Deepa Isac says the organization is still sorting through the violation. They have retained a lawyer in Alaska, and they may file an appeal.
Isac says the Esperanza crew is experienced in traveling through Arctic and near-shore environments.
“They always look into what is required locally in all the areas that they go,” she says.
The Alaska Board of Marine Pilots is not investigating any other violations from Greenpeace’s trip to Alaska.
Tuesday night the Anchorage Assembly finally decided the issue of a state-funded recreation center with tennis courts.
Assembly members approved $4.4 million for the project. The Alaska Tennis Association had originally requested $7.2 million to build the recreation center which would include a public tennis facility in West Anchorage near the existing ice arena.
The Tennis Association did its own lobbying for the money and says $4.4 million won’t be enough.
Allen Clendaniel, President of the Tennis Association says supporters have mixed feelings.
“The Tennis Association is disappointed but also relieved that it’s over,” Clendaniel said. ”We were hoping that the Assembly would approve the $7.2 million or at least he $6.2 million. However, we’re happy the Assembly supported funding for this project, it shows they support it. And the question now is, we need to do further work to get it fully funded.”
The Assembly has been debating whether it could or should use a state capital line item to fund the controversial project since early October. Assembly members did not request money for it and some legislators said they did not know they had approved it.
The money for the rec center was buried in a package meant for infrastructure maintenance.
During the meeting, Assembly member Amy Demboski tried to put the issue before voters as bond measure but that was voted down.
Mayor Dan Sullivan came to the meeting with some legal opinions that he said contradicted a Legislative Affairs opinion that a new facility was not within the legislative intent of the capital budget item for maintaining existing facilities.
Clendaniel says supporters hope a 2014 legislative request will provide the additional funds needed to complete the project.
Mayor Sullivan has seven days to veto the item.
Is AGIA being put to bed? When the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act was first introduced in 2007, it was sold as the state’s best hope of getting work started on a natural gas pipeline. It gave TransCanada a license to develop a project for Alaska, and it granted the energy company up to half a billion dollars in state subsidies for design and engineering costs.
But six years after the bill’s passage, the Parnell administration thinks it’s ready to go beyond that framework in an effort to get a LNG project built. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.
Last week, the Department of Natural Resources issued their budget book. It’s a long, dry document that lays out how the agency wants to spend its money over the next year. Most of the language is pretty routine, and addresses work that’s planned or has already been done.
But this year, there was something of a bombshell in the first few pages. In a few lines, the Parnell administration suggests that they expect to be done with the AGIA framework by next year.
“Our expectation is that that statute will no longer be operative,” says Natural Resources Commissioner Joe Balash.
Balash says not to worry — the state isn’t walking away from a gasline project. They’re not planning on calling the project uneconomic, or going into arbitration with TransCanada to get out of their deal. Instead, this is “good news.” Balash says that DNR is operating on the expectation that some sort of commercial agreement will be achieved in the next year.
If there’s a new contract in place between the state and energy companies, that would make AGIA moot. There would be no reason to keep the Gas Pipeline Project Office open, or continue with AGIA’s financial requirements.
“With that expectation, there’s no longer a need for the AGIA reimbursements, or the AGIA license monitoring — the functions really that the Gas Pipeline Project Office has been carrying out under the AGIA statute,” says Balash.
The FY2015 budget that Gov. Sean Parnell proposed last week doesn’t have any money pegged to AGIA. Parnell has said that there’s money from previous appropriations that should cover any reimbursement billings from TransCanada.
Parnell’s budget also zeros out the $4 million that funds the Gas Pipeline Project Office, shutting it down altogether. Balash says that its five employees could be transferred into other government work, and that they will keep on fulfilling AGIA’s requirements until there’s a full wind-down.
“In truth, AGIA has served a very useful purpose, and it even today continues to do so,” says Balash. “But at the end of the day, it was really just a means to an end — you know, getting a project that was structured in such a way that the state’s best interests could be realized.”
Larry Persily is the federal pipeline coordinator, and he sees why the state might want to move away from AGIA at this point.
“Politically, AGIA is not really popular with Alaskans, because they see the state paying for reimbursement for something that hasn’t happened,” says Persily. “People are getting cranky because it’s been six years since Sarah Palin said this was the path forward, and we may be closer to a pipeline but people don’t see steel.”
Persily says that people forget that AGIA was more about a getting a building permit than developing a complete framework for constructing a pipeline. He says for that to happen, the state needs a solid gas tax structure, so that producers know they’re committing to a project that makes economic sense. Parnell has listed that as priority of his administration.
As far as where TransCanada fits into this, Persily thinks they would be comfortable moving ahead with a contract to replace AGIA, even if they don’t max out their state subsidies. He adds that TransCanada has also put plenty of their own money on the line as well — their goal shouldn’t be to derive the most benefit possible from AGIA, but to get a multi-billion-dollar pipeline built.
“If there’s a path forward now that gets to there, that’s the prize — not the last bit of reimbursement for engineering and design work,” says Persily.
According to the annual AGIA fund disbursement report, the state has paid out $223 million to TransCanada through FY2012. That report forecasted that the state would supply $89 million in reimbursements over the next two fiscal years. If that forecast is right and if the state does move away from AGIA by FY2015, that would leave close to $200 million in state subsidies left in the pot.
At this time, TransCanada doesn’t have a public position on the Parnell administration’s desire to shift away from AGIA. In an e-mail, spokesperson Shawn Howard wrote that the company is “continuing to work diligently with Alaska North Slope producers and the State to advance the Alaska LNG project.”
It looks like Congress will finally pass a budget. A two-year spending plan easily cleared a Senate hurdle today, and is headed for final passage tomorrow. Both Alaska senators supported it, but they’re not entirely happy.
The state’s highest court heard oral arguments Tuesday in appeals related to lawsuits against the proposed Pebble Mine.
In the first of three cases, Alaska Supreme Court justices heard attorney Nancy Wainwright, representing the tribal advocacy group Nunamta Aulukestai, [new NAM ta a LUKE es tie] and co-plaintiffs Bella Hammond and Vic Fisher, and others, who argued that under the state of Alaska constitution, plaintiffs were deprived of their right to public process in regard to temporary water and land use permits issued by the state Department of Natural Resources
“Article 8, section ten requires public notice and other safeguards of the public interest before the state disposes of interest in state lands. And we believe that the state has functionally disposed of interest in state lands by leaving the thousands of bore holes and toxic waste pits that will never be reclaimed, as well as using a lot of water, taking it out of its natural state.”
Wainwright told the Justices that there are thousands of pits of buried drilling muds and hundreds of exploratory bore holes dotting the tundra due to mine exploration — things that cannot be removed. Wainwright argued that the scope of the exploration and the number of related permits triggers the public’s right to weigh in. Wainwright said that the Superior Court erred when it did not take into account that these wounds on the land can never be removed, or that the water used in Pebble exploration would not be returned to its natural hydrological cycle
The high court must decide if the permits require the full public process, overturning a 2011 Superior Court decision in favor of the state.
State assistant attorney general Laura Fox, in arguing for the department of natural resources, told the court that there are many types of permits, registration agreements, and leases, all with different requirements on the part of permitting authorities.
“Well the state’s position is that the permits were legal and complied with all requirements and that the state’s comprehensive land and resource management system complies with the Alaska Constitution, and protects state land and resources and the evidence at [Superior Court ] trial showed that there was no harm to state land and resources from Pebble’s temporary exploration activities.”
Fox told the Justices that some permits require notice, others, don’t. And, Fox said that the plaintiffs claims that additional protections should be added to a particular land or water permit is not covered under article 8 of the state constitution.
A second and a third case heard by the high court Tuesday dealt with court costs and fees related to Pebble litigation. Plaintiffs attorneys argued that public interest litigants with limited funds should be spared court costs if they lose, while attorneys for Pebble Limited Partners held that substantial economic interests are behind prosecuting the case against Pebble. Pebble attorney Howard Trickey pushed for further investigation into those funding the cases against the mine, claiming that many of the plaintiffs are ” proxies ” acting on behalf of commercial fishing interests, and that plaintiffs had an economic interest in filing the suit against the mine.
“It’s protecting the habitat for the fisheries resource for exclusive use by the fisheries industry. And by commercial fishermen. Protecting the water, so that that water is used exclusively for one resource user and preserving and protecting that resource. These plaintiffs were proxies, agents if you will, for substantial economic interests in the commercial fishing industry to bring this case. “
Attorney for the plaintiffs, Victoria Clark, told the court that Nunamta Aulukestai officials had no money to process the case, and that they swore under oath that they could not pay costs if they lose the case. She told the justices that the Superior Court had found that Nunumta Aulukestai could not have afforded this case
“Discovery of Nunumta’s third party funders should not be allowed. The state and Pebble want to know the cost of the lawsuit and who paid for it. Funding of a lawsuit has never been a basis for requiring Constitutional litigants to pay the other side’s attorneys fees. In this case, both Nunumta and the individuals stated under oath that they controlled the litigation and that they are not parties to any indemnification agreements. The fact that none of Nunumta’s funding was used for this case makes delving into information about Nunumta’s funders completely irrelevant to establishing its economic incentive. “
The Alaska Supreme Court Justices took the matters under advisement.
Congressman Don Young introduced a bill recently that would allow hunters to get a tax break for donating game to food based charities.
The process of cleaning up the Red Devil mine will take the BLM years. But the agency is planning to move dirt this summer to prevent more tailings and their toxic metals from entering the Kuskokwim River.
The Museum of the Aleutians in Unalaska re-opened recently after five months of renovations. The space has been transformed in an effort to tell the whole story of the chain.
Stepping into the newly renovated Museum of the Aleutians is meant to feel like stepping into the sea.
A model kayaker in a traditional 18-foot craft appears to paddle toward visitors. The backdrop — a mural of the churning ocean.
Jeff Hawley: “When you walk in there and you see the depth of the water and it just makes you feel like you’re on one of the boats, and you’re just down in one of the holes when you’re waiting to come up. It’s pretty fabulous actually, they did a wonderful, wonderful job with that.”
Jeff Hawley is Unalaska’s director of parks, culture, and recreation. He was one of the community leaders and donors who got to see the new space for the first time Friday, at a gala to kick off the museum’s opening weekend.
Designer Alan Ransenberg was there too. He’s the man behind the new exhibit. And he says the kayak scene is the beginning of a journey.
Ransenberg: “The story is the story of the Unangan or the Aleuts — about how they lived prior to contact with Russia, with the Russians, and they lived in a very expansive place, lots of horizon because of the water, and then they slowly got constricted.”
Ransenberg says the museum wanted to do more than show off its artifacts. Now, the galleries feature dioramas, video displays and other interactive elements. They cover the early history of the Aleutians, all the way to Russian colonization, World War II and beyond.
Ransenberg: “But in the end, it opens up into the collection room, that has a lot to do with that the Aleuts are still here, even after all of this.”
That room is designed like an Unangan barabara, a traditional pit dwelling with a notched wooden ladder in the center.
The display cases along the walls show off Native handicrafts and tools. Collections manager Ingrid Martis says the museum strived to provide context for them all:
Martis: “Before, there wasn’t any storyline — there wasn’t even any panels, so you had to guess, okay, that’s a lithic point. Well, I suppose that they were using lithic points. Now there’s more explanation. Why were they using lithic points? Because they were hunters, and they would go at sea and hunt for sea otters and sea lions.”
Museum director Zoya Johnson says this transformation cost $800,000 in private and public funding and has been in the works for years. She hopes it will help visitors learn more from what’s on display.
Johnson: “We have such a rich, incredible story here that we felt that there are different ways, better ways to tell that story. And at the same time, this is a very small museum – we have a very small space. We can use the space better.”
One way to do that is to let visitors literally walk in the shoes of the people they’re learning about. A section of the museum about the fishing industry and the Coast Guard includes samples of rain gear and Xtratuf boots – adult and child-sized. Unalaska resident Carol Bunes spent some time admiring them on Sunday.
Bunes: “It’s more interactive now, there’s video, there’s stuff to try on and stuff like that, it’s really cool.”
Bunes has lived in Unalaska for 20 years. She remembers the old museum layout well.
Bunes: “There was great history in it before, but this kind of represents more the segments of the community, and I think it shows people that are visiting a little bit more of the well-roundedness of what we have to offer here.”
Bunes has seen plenty of transformation in her time in Unalaska. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the history of this region and its people. The museum is hoping to preserve that heritage, through all the change that’s still to come.
A controversial proposal to build Alaska’s second drag racing strip near North Pole is closer to becoming a reality. The Fairbanks North Star Borough Planning Commission approved an application last night by the Fairbanks Racing Lions for the half-mile track.
Holiday light displays are a common site this time of year, including on the internet, where you can view highly orchestrated light shows. It wouldn’t seem that a few strings of bulbs on a small Alaska cabin could compete, but a Fairbanks area couple has gained international following for putting control of their lights in the hands of internet visitors.
The state’s legislative affairs agency released an opinion on Tuesday saying state grant money shouldn’t be used to build a recreation center with indoor tennis courts.
The controversial proposal to build a new rec center is on the agenda again at the Anchorage Assembly meeting on Tuesday night.
Anchorage Senator Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat, says he asked for the legal opinion along with Democratic Senator Berta Gardener after his constituents brought the tennis court issue to his attention.
“I had a local community meeting regarding some drainage issues, peoples’ houses getting flooded and it’s going to cost 3 or 4 million dollars. And they say well you’ve got enough money to pay for new tennis courts but you don’t have enough money to pay for our drainage,” Wielechowski said. “And I got meet with parents and teachers and they say well you’ve got enough money to pay for tennis courts but you don’t have enough money for kids education.”
The issue has divided the Assembly for the past few months. The Alaska Tennis Association lobbied Juneau directly for the money to build a rec center. Then millions in funding for the project, which the Assembly did not request, was rolled into a $37 million allocation for city infrastructure maintenance.
The legislative opinion cites several sources, including the state constitution, and essentially says appropriation bills must be very specific. Some Lawmakers say they were unaware they had given money for the project, including Wielechowski.
“We were providing funds for critical and deferred maintenance. There was never any inclination that we were funding new tennis courts,” Wielechowski said. “In fact, if that were the case there very likely would have been attempts to strip that out, because we’re going into a period of deficits and states shouldn’t be funding things like that.”
Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan backed the project and has said there was nothing wrong with the process.
The Alaska Tennis Association was contacted for this story but did not return phone calls by deadline.
The Assembly meets this evening at Loussac Library.
The state may be taking possession of eight new airplanes. They’re 1980s era cargo planes that the Army doesn’t want anymore. A provision in the Defense Bill now before the U.S. Senate offers them to the governor of Alaska. The catch is, the state has to figure out what to do with them – and how to pay for their upkeep.
Environment and health officials in the U.S. say they are puzzled by China’s decision to ban shellfish harvested from Northern California to Alaska. State officials say their records don’t show the same unsafe toxin levels that were detected by a lab in China.
Officials say an estimated 5,500 gallons of unleaded gasoline spilled into the water Saturday in the small Southeast community of Kake.
Kake Tribal Fuel reported the spill around 11 o’clock Saturday morning. “Kake Tribal Fuel noticed on Saturday when they went to open up their facility that there was a strong smell of gasoline and it led them to discover there had been a ruptured fuel line underneath their floating dock,” said Sarah Moore, the state’s on-scene coordinator with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation in Juneau.
Moore said the initial amount reported spilled was 7,000 gallons, however, the corporation estimates its probably closer to 5,500 gallons. “Saturday morning when they first called it in they were saying there was a rainbow sheen of 100 yards and along the protected areas right around the fuel dock you could see free product,” Moore said.
The Coast Guard reported all vessels were removed from the harbor and police secured the area. Coast Guard petty officer Jeffry Crews said first responders in Kake initially put out containment booms around the spilled gas. “But unfortunately that’s not very safe to do with gasoline,” Crews said. “It’s a very volatile oil and very dangerous to try and contain. So the state and the US Coast Guard advised them to remove the boom and keep any vehicles or anything that could potentially ignite a spark away from the gasoline. And then we had them lay down fire suppressant fog with fire hoses on the big clumps of gasoline to try and break it up and keep the fumes down.”
Crews said it’s possible the flexible fuel line broke because of high wind and wave in the area but the cause of the leak is under investigation. He said the bad weather also disbursed the spilled fuel. “The tide and the wind and the currents all conspired to carry pretty much everything out to sea. So we didn’t have much to collect anyway. Because the weather conditions which were pretty bad on Saturday did a really good job of evaporating the product or taking it out to open water where it was gonna evaporate faster.”
The Coast Guard plans to respond to Kake to investigate.
A phone call to an official with Kake Tribal’s fuel operation was not returned. DEC is recommending that no one in Kake collect shellfish from the area immediately around the fuel dock.
Riversdale Alaska is mothballing its plan to mine coal in the Chickaloon area. The Australian-owned mining company is turning its sights on coal prospects in Alberta, Canada, instead.
The University of Alaska, Fairbanks Museum of the North recently acquired as many as 150,000 fish and marine specimens from the National Marine Fisheries Service. The acquisition means the museum’s fish collection has doubled in size.
Juneau’s soup kitchen and shelter recently received a donation of salmon with an estimated retail value of more than $100,000.
Nine tons of individually wrapped frozen salmon steaks sit in a container at Juneau’s Alaska Marine Lines. The fish has been donated to The Glory Hole, Juneau’s soup kitchen and shelter.
The donation was made by SeaShare, a non-profit based in Seattle that works with the seafood industry to help get food to people who are served by food banks and soup kitchens.
“Our role is we try to make it easier for fishermen and processers to donate and we’re able to bring in other companies who can help with freight or packaging or storage so the donating entity doesn’t have to bear the whole brunt of bringing them up there,” says SeaShare executive director Jim Harmon.
The salmon donated to Glory Hole is chum bycatch from the pollock trawl fishery in the Bering Sea.
“Fishermen have the opportunity to retain those fish and bring them into shore and donate them to SeaShare. We’re the only agency authorized to receive prohibited species catch. If they don’t retain them for us, they have to throw them overboard so there’s no economic incentive to them for retaining high value salmon while they’re fishing for pollock,” Harmon explains.
SeaShare will donate about 1.5 million pounds of fish this year – ten percent of that comes from the bycatch program; the rest is from seafood companies.
Harmon says the goal is to utilize fish that would otherwise be thrown overboard. SeaShare works with more than 120 boats, which Harmon says accounts for every boat in the Bering Sea pollock fishery and more than half in the Gulf of Alaska fishery.
“We make it clear that nobody is asking for bycatch, the people who work with us are some of the best fishermen who work the hardest to avoid it but when they do catch it, they want to see something good done with it,” says Harmon. “They want to utilize everything that’s in the net, so they donate it to us.”
SeaShare has also donated fish to Anchorage, Kodiak, Fairbanks, Kotzebue, Galena, Dutch Harbor, and St. Paul.
In February Juneau’s Glory Hole received 8,000 pounds of sockeye fillets shared among a few other organizations. Executive director Mariya Lovischuk says she was initially overwhelmed with the current donation of 18,000 pounds, “but then I figured that definitely if I called around our partner agencies we would be able to utilize the fish for sure, and I was right, so now all the fish is going to the right places.”
The fish is being divided based on need and freezer space. Glory Hole clients will help distribute the salmon to more than ten other organizations, including Southeast Alaska Food Bank. Manager Darren Adams says the food bank will get 5,000 pounds.
“That’s a very generous donation,” he says. “We can always use an influx of protein. We tend to get a lot of empty calories but it’s always nice to get stuff like salmon and other meats that allow us to offer something healthy to our clients.”
Adams says the food bank will distribute the fish to several organizations in Juneau as well as to individuals and families that pick up food on Saturdays. Last Saturday, that was 60 people but Adams says the number changes week to week.
According to Lovischuk, Glory Hole will keep 3,000 pounds of salmon. She says that’ll help feed the 60 to 100 people that go there for lunch every day. “I think it’ll probably be enough protein for us to do our lunch program for two months.”
Lovischuk says Glory Hole is almost finished with the coho salmon donated in September by Juneau hatchery Douglas Island Pink and Chum, so the SeaShare donation is coming at just the right time.