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From Our Listeners

Southeast Alaska News

Senate candidate Sullivan talks health care — and dolphins

Tue, 2014-04-15 18:44

Republican Dan Sullivan, with his wife Julie Fate Sullivan, at the Sitka Westmark on April 12. Sullivan hopes to challenge incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Begich. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan was in Sitka this weekend to speak at the Sitka Republican Women’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner. Sullivan, a former Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, is hoping to challenge incumbent Democrat Mark Begich, who is up for reelection this fall. Sullivan faces several Republican rivals for the GOP nomination, including Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell, and the 2010 Tea Party champion, Joe Miller.

Sullivan sat down with Sitka reporters to talk about his role in challenging President Obama’s healthcare law, the perils of over-regulation – and that time he swam against the Navy’s military dolphins.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

The first time Sullivan visited Sitka, over a decade ago, it was in a very different role.

“We were the guys swimming against the dolphins,” Sullivan said.

That would be military-trained Navy dolphins. Sullivan has been an officer and reservist in the U.S. Marine Corps since 1993.  He first came to Sitka as part of Northern Edge 2000, an elaborate military training exercise that many Sitkans remember, in part, for the Navy dolphins that were temporarily housed in town.

The dolphins were trained to find enemy swimmers who might be, say, planting mines on a naval ship. During the exercise, Sullivan and his marines played those swimmers — which is how he found himself in a dry suit in Sitka Sound, with dolphins swimming towards him. Then, suddenly, those dolphins stopped.

SULLIVAN: So we thought that was very strange. And then we were left, unfortunately, this marine and I were left in the water for quite a long time, like about an hour. It was cold. And finally they came to pick us up and I said, what, why did you guys leave us here for so long? What happened? And the dolphins didn’t do their job, they stopped. He said, we had to get the dolphins out of the water very quickly. We’re really sorry. There was kind of an emergency. We said what? And he said, well somebody noticed that they thought they saw a pod of killer whales, so we had to collect the dolphins real quick. And I said, you left me out here and my marine for over an hour, when there was a pod of killer whales?! And the guy looked at me, and literally he said, he goes, look, I’m sorry. He goes, we spend millions of dollars training those dolphins. [[Laughter]]

Sullivan served most recently as Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources under Governor Sean Parnell; he resigned last fall, to launch his campaign. Before that, he served as Alaska Attorney General for a year and a half under then-Governor Sarah Palin.

During that time, Sullivan was one of the state attorneys general who sued the Obama administration over the president’s healthcare law.

“When that was passed, I grabbed a small group of attorneys, and I said, hey, before we decide whether or not we’re going to challenge this, let’s figure out what it is. Let’s read it!” Sullivan said. “I’m not going to say I read every word. It’s a big, thick document. But we spent weeks –weeks! — reviewing that law.”

Sullivan ended up recommending the State of Alaska join the suit, arguing that the law was unconstitutional.

In the end, the Supreme Court upheld most of the law, but Sullivan said he’s proud that the Court accepted one argument at the heart of the suit — that the federal government could not force states to expand Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor. Medicaid expansion became optional, and this fall, Governor Parnell announced that Alaska would opt out, citing its cost.

Sullivan said he supports the governor’s decision, and continues to oppose the law, which he argues has done more harm than good.

“Are there elements of that bill, for example preexisting conditions, that I think are positive – yes,” Sullivan said.  ”But [look at] the overall direction of what that has done and how that has harmed Alaskans.”

Democrats argue that popular elements of the bill – like banning discrimination based on preexisting conditions – depend on the less popular elements, like the mandate that everyone carry health insurance and subsidies for those who can’t afford it.

During the interview, Sullivan aimed much of his fire at President Barack Obama. He said he believes the President’s policies are stifling the economy.

“It’s over-regulating almost all elements of our economy, whether it’s resource development, whether it’s the financial community, whether it’s tourism,” Sullivan said. “Which is hindering opportunity in Alaska and the country.”

Sullivan said that, if elected, his top two economic priorities would be reducing overregulation, and increasing energy development.

Those are both issues Sullivan dealt with at the state level. As Commissioner of Natural Resources, he pushed forward HB77, a controversial bill aimed at streamlining the Department’s permitting process. Opponents argued that the bill limited public participation, and it was shelved by the legislature earlier this spring.

But Sullivan said he thought the overall effort had been on the right track, citing the backlog of permits at the agency when he arrived.

“Two thousand five hundred backlogged permits that we were sitting on as a state – just at one agency!” Sullivan said. “Some had been sitting around two, three, four years! And to me again, this was an issue that was very, very harmful to small businesses in Alaska – growing the economy, employing people.”

Before his time as attorney general, Sullivan worked in various roles in the Bush administration and U.S. military. He served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State under Condoleezza Rice from 2006 to 2009. From 2002 to 2004, he served on the staff of the White House National Security Council. In between, he spent two years on active duty as a staff officer to General John Abizaid, who was then overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sullivan said his experience in the military put veterans’ issues at the top of his agenda.

“There are areas, with regard to wasteful military spending, that we clearly can make some important cuts,” he said. “However, spending on our veterans should not be an area where we try to balance the budget. Balancing the budget on the backs of our veterans, and the benefits they’ve earned, is not where I would be, in terms of being a U.S. Senator.”

Sullivan has taken heat for his years in Washington from outside groups supporting Senator Mark Begich, who have run ads arguing that Sullivan hasn’t spent enough time in Alaska.

Sullivan is originally from Ohio, where his family runs the publicly traded company RPM International, and is prominent in Republican politics. He moved to Alaska in 1997.

Sullivan’s wife, Julie Fate Sullivan, is the daughter of longtime Native leader Mary Jane Fate. Sullivan’s father-in-law, Hugh Fate, represented Fairbanks as a Republican state legislator in the early 2000s.

The Senate primary will be held on August 19. The General Election will be November 4, 2014.

Petersburg begins 2nd annual Pedometer Challenge

Tue, 2014-04-15 16:14

Pedometers like this one are being given out to Petersburg residents. Photo/Angela Denning

At least one hundred people in Petersburg should be wearing pedometers today to count the steps they are taking. They are participating in the Pedometer Challenge. It’s the second year the program has happened here in town. Last year, the Petersburg Indian Association ran the event through their tobacco prevention grant. Two-hundred seventy people participated.

Kim Kilkenny with Petersburg Mental Health Services says mental health and physical health go hand in hand.

“Mental health and physical health are intertwined,” Kilkenny says. “We believe in treating the whole body and that if your physical health is not good or you’re struggling with pain, mental health is not going to feel good and you’re going to struggle with that, and so, that’s why we talk about all of it. ‘Is your social health good, is your mental health good. What can we do to keep you active? You know, what are some behavior strategies that will help improve your mood and decrease symptoms?’ So, it’s just enmeshed and you know, our doctors ask us, ‘are we getting exercise’? You know, it’s all inter-related to our whole well being.”

Kilkenny’s office took over the Pedometer Challenge this year through a different funding source– a $24,000 dollar Community Transformations grant from the CDC or Centers for Disease Control. The grant came through the South East Alaska Regional Health Consortium or SEARHC.

Martha Pearson is a Program Manager for SEARHC. I spoke with her and Kilkenny about the details of this year’s Pedometer Challenge.

Angela: “Now the actual mechanics of the pedometer, it’s basically recording how many steps you take or those types of motions?”
Kim: “Right. You’ll want to test it out that the steps are corrected and it will do 24 hours, count your steps and then the way we are having people measure their participation is by calling in their total numbers for that week. They’re logging in, this year we are doing it through survey monkey so we have instant data and know where everybody’s at and that way we don’t lose any information or add wrong (laughs) so that’s how it’s going down.”
Martha: “And also the beauty of using the pedometers is that each participant gets their own feedback right away of how they’re doing. They can set their own personal goals. You know, for some person, 10,000 steps a day is no problem. That’s about five miles of stepping a day. For some people that would be just an impossible task. So, for them maybe 5,000 steps or 2,000. Whatever it is, you can set your own goal and work to reach it. And that’s why this program is likely to be more successful is because everyone can join in and participate on their own rate.”
Angela: “How long is this challenge going for?”
Kim: “Six weeks. The challenge will end May 23. The reporting period opens on Thursday and it closes on Sunday for that previous week. So to be eligible for the drawing for a weekly prize, you’ll need to register during that four day window.”
Angela: “Speaking of prizes…”
Kim: “They’re fabulous!”
Angela: “I guess that’s some incentive to keep going.”
Kim: “Yeah, we included some physical health wellbeing prizes or incentives. My favorite– groups are eligible for weekly prizes as well–is two hours at the bouncy castle at Parks and Rec. So, adults are encouraged…you know…it’s a lot of fun if you’ve ever been in the bouncy castle (laughs).”
Angela: “I’ve actually seen pictures and my first question was, ‘is there an age limit’(laughs)?.”
Kim: “No. We checked and there is no age limit (laughs) and then we have kayaks, we have an I pad mini. Well, kayak, sorry, singular. We have some galaxy tablets, Zumba cards, Skate of Gear has a package that they’re donating. So, very cool prizes.”

As of last week, about 100 people had registered.

People can sign up for the Pedometer Challenge through Friday (April 18). Pedometers can be picked up at Public Health or you can call Petersburg Indian Association or Mental Health and they will get one to you.

Borough FY2015 budget: No new taxes

Tue, 2014-04-15 14:43

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough has introduced its proposed fiscal year 2015 budget, with no increase in tax rates, but a projected rise in revenue, nonetheless.

Overall, the borough expects about $575,000 more revenue for its general fund in FY2015. That will mostly come from property and sales tax collection, and anticipated increases in fees charged for services.

While the property tax rate will remain at 5 mills, the borough expects to collect about $183,000 more from that revenue source. The increase comes from new construction and changes in assessed value, according to the budget overview. Sales tax, while also not changing, is expected to increase by 2.2 percent, bringing $176,000 more.

If the federal government chooses to fully fund the Secure Rural Schools and Payment in Lieu of Taxes programs in FY2015, then the borough will have even more of an increase in projected revenue. But, the borough isn’t counting on it.

The budget overview states that while revenue is going up, expenses are going down. One of the reductions is in school district funding. The borough has budgeted about $7.89 million for local schools. That’s about $161,000 less than FY2014.

The borough also expects to spend less on capital projects and administration.

Not yet in the budget is a proposed $1.1 million school district reserve fund that would come from the FY2014 Secure Rural Schools payment. The Assembly will consider an ordinance creating the fund at its next meeting. The fund could be used for unforeseen expenses, to cushion potential cutbacks in the future, or major maintenance.

The proposed borough budget also calls for about $2.8 million for community grants through the economic development fund. $2.5 million of that is a carryover grant to the City of Ketchikan to help pay for construction of the Whitman Lake Hydroelectric Dam.

Also in the budget is a $1.15 million expense in the commercial passenger vessel fund for a pedestrian bridge at Herring Cove. That would cover roughly half of the estimated cost of the proposed bridge.

The borough’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. The next Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting is Monday.

Ketchikan hosts high school music festival

Tue, 2014-04-15 13:16

The Petersburg High School Jazz Band is critiqued by adjudicator Dick Elliot after their performance.

Around 500 young musicians from all over Southeast Alaska brought their instruments and voices to Ketchikan last weekend for the Region 5 Southeast Alaska Music Festival. It’s an event that rotates between Ketchikan, Juneau, and Sitka each year.

Music from dozens of choirs and bands echoed throughout the Kayhi hallways.

Kayhi Activities Director Ed Klein said there were around 600 students, including Kayhi’s 125, in Ketchikan for the festival.

The visiting students were from 11 schools in Juneau, Craig, Haines, Hoonah, Klawock, Sitka, Wrangell, Metlakatla, and Petersburg.

“It’s incredible seeing so many dedicated students to music,” said Thunder Mountain trumpet player Rafael Sales said. “I’m very surprised, coming from one town and seeing a bunch of towns come together to play music.”

Sitka music teacher John DePalatis has been teaching in Southeast Alaska for 8 years.

“What’s wonderful about Southeast is that our kids all know each other, they house together. So it’s a meeting of old friends,” DePalatis said. “And they get upset when they don’t get to hear each other perform and it’s what it should be about, which is kids making good music and supporting each other.”

Each day of the three-day festival starts with a series of short performances from choirs and bands. After performing, each group is critiqued by an adjudicator.

“Our whole idea is to support what the schools are doing, and to give feedback to the kids and directors so as they come away from this they are able to take what we have given them back to the schools and rehearsal situations,” said Dick Elliot, one of the four adjudicators.

Elliot is Associate Director of Bands at George Fox University in Oregon. He’s done a lot of adjudicating for high school bands, but he’s never been to Southeast Alaska before.

“I look at the size of their high school, 143 in their high school,” he said, referring to the Petersburg Jazz Band, which he had just critiqued. “And I think ‘Oh my gosh, they’re going to be lucky to have ten or eleven in their band.’ And then they come in with something like this that absolutely blows you away.”

Thunder Mountain Jazz Band performs in the Kayhi auditorium.

One Kayhi student said hearing constructive criticism from the adjudicators gets through to her more than casual advice from friends or family.

Laslie Iputi, a vocalist in the Thunder Mountain Concert Choir, said an adjudicator’s advice made a big difference.

“He told us we need to blend our voices to become una voce, like one voice,” she said. “We took it and we used it last night and I think that’s why we came out good. When we started, I doubted our group…but after that performance I was really surprised with how it turned out.”

After the morning of performances and adjudicating, clinics are next. These are hour-long workshops focused on a specific topic.

Katie Gaggini and Kim Stone are music teachers in Ketchikan. On Saturday, they led a “Fun With Opera” clinic.

“What we really want to portray to kids is how, there’s a lot of elements to singing, but one that’s super important is emotion,” said Gaggini. “So today we’re going to be talking about all the elements of emotion and how it adds character to the piece.”

Each night of the festival wraps up in another series of choir, orchestra and band concerts.

Korbin Storms is a Mt. Edgecumbe student. She summed up her favorite part of the entire festival.

“The moment when you can tell that people are really into it and you get chills on the back of your neck.”

“I think being a music student brings a lot of joy to people,” said Sitka student Darian Scarbrough. “There’s something about it that makes people feel better inside.”

Next year’s music fest will be hosted in either Sitka or Juneau.

Kansas church to protest Alaska Native center

Tue, 2014-04-15 11:46

ANCHORAGE (AP) — A Topeka, Kan., church known for protesting at the funerals of soldiers says it plans to picket the Alaska Native Heritage Center on June 1.

The Westboro Baptist Church says in an online flyer published Sunday that it plans to send protesters to the center because “God hates your idols.”

The plans are triggering talk of a counter protest, prompting a Facebook group to launch for that purpose.

The Westboro flyer says there is nothing “appealing or holy about the ‘heritage’ of eleven ‘distinct cultures’ or ‘diverse population’ of Alaska.”

Church members are known for holding protests at funerals to highlight their belief that God is punishing the nation for its acceptance of homosexuality, regardless of whether the deceased person was gay.

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Tue, 2014-04-15 11:46

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An unlikely romance, ‘Parfumerie’ opens Friday

Tue, 2014-04-15 09:16

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Sitka Community Theater producer Shannon Haugland, and performer Ira Snelling, discuss this weekend’s opening of Parfumerie, a 1937 Hungarian play which is better known in its Hollywood adaptation You’ve Got Mail. Snelling plays George Horvath, a senior clerk who develops an unlikely romance with junior clerk Amalia, played by Rhiannon Guevin. Performances 7 PM April 18, 19, and 20. (Sitka Performing Arts Center, $10/8 in advance at Old Harbor Books.)

Tue Apr 15, 2014

Tue, 2014-04-15 09:08

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Jury returns partial verdict in Yakutat cold case homicide. IFA chief updates Ketchikan chamber on summer ferry season. Legislature considers dropping controversial high school qualifying exam. New president named for Tlingit and Haida Central Council.

Museum Report

Tue, 2014-04-15 08:34

Ann Froeschle and Anita Maxwell speak about the upcoming “Wilderness” exhibit and final classes for the season.   Museum041514

ConocoPhillips to reopen Kenai LNG plant, resume exports

Tue, 2014-04-15 00:05

ConocoPhillips is restarting its liquefied natural gas plant on the Kenai Peninsula and will resume shipments of LNG in May, the company announced April 14. Five shipments are planned this year, ConocoPhillips spokeswoman Amy Burnett said.

The announcement came as the U.S. Department of Energy issued its approval of exports, also on Monday. DOE authorized the shipment of 40 billion cubic feet of gas over two years.

read more

Tire expert testifies in Kodiak murder trial

Tue, 2014-04-15 00:04

ANCHORAGE — The nail found in the truck tire of the man charged with killing two co-workers at a Kodiak Coast Guard facility likely was inserted mechanically, not picked up along a roadway, a tire expert said Monday.

The weathered nail, about 3.5 inches long and bent 7 degrees, was perpendicular to the tire tread, Gary Bolden testified. The head of the nail showed no abrasions that would have indicated it had been driven on asphalt or gravel, Bolden said.

“My conclusion was that it was inserted manually,” Bolden said.

read more

Court: Alaska tribe should settle own dispute over leadership

Tue, 2014-04-15 00:04

FAIRBANKS — The Alaska Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that a tribal dispute involving leadership should be settled locally, not through the court system.

The dispute began with a lawsuit filed against Mount McKinley Bank by one group claiming leadership of the Healy Lake Village tribe, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Another group also claims it is the rightful leader.

read more

Family seeks answers in Alaska inmate's death

Tue, 2014-04-15 00:04

ANCHORAGE — A California parolee who recently was found dead in his Alaska jail cell continued to be held in custody even though his case had been dismissed more than a week earlier.

The Alaska fugitive case against Davon Mosley of Bakersfield, Calif., was dropped March 27 after California authorities declined extradition even though a regional parole administrator said his office there recommended his return to that state.

Mosley, 20, died April 4. He was arrested in Anchorage March 16 on a fugitive warrant from California.

read more

Ketchikan man pleads not guilty to drug charges

Mon, 2014-04-14 16:18

Ketchikan resident Joel Kotrc pleaded not guilty Monday in Ketchikan Superior Court to multiple felony drug charges, and asked for a public defender to represent him.

The 48-year-old Kotrc was indicted April 3rd by a grand jury on four counts, three for alleged possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute; and one for allegedly maintaining a residence for the purpose of distributing drugs. Monday was his first court appearance in the matter.

Kotrc, who is recovering from an illness, moved slowly with the help of a cane. When asked how he wanted to plead, Kotrc seemed hesitant, but then said he probably should plead not guilty because he wants to talk to an attorney about the case.

He did not have an attorney yet. In response to questions from Superior Court Judge William Carey, Kotrc admitted that he hasn’t worked since December. Carey agreed to appoint the public defender to the case.

Carey also allowed Kotrc to remain free on his own recognizance, which means no bail money will be required. However, Kotrc is not allowed to leave town without permission. He also is not allowed to contact co-defendants in the case.

The charges against Kotrc are related to the arrest in late February of a Washington State man who allegedly brought 7 ounces of methamphetamine to Ketchikan on the ferry from Bellingham.

The next hearing in the case is set for 2:30 p.m. April 28 in Ketchikan Superior Court. A trial is tentatively scheduled for June 16.

‘Power Hour’ extended at Hames

Mon, 2014-04-14 15:58

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Isaac Patinkin, with the Hames Center, discusses Parent Power Hour and the climbing wall. For complete information, visit the Hames Center online.

Mon Apr 14, 2014

Mon, 2014-04-14 15:51

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Sitka School Board says city’s failure to fund schools to cap is noticed in Juneau. All-gear quota for chinook significantly larger this season. Juneau artist MK McNoughton explores keeping secrets.

Birthday cupcakes exempt from nutrition guidelines

Mon, 2014-04-14 15:50

Last week, the Ketchikan School Board adopted new student nutrition and physical activity guidelines, but only after inserting a “cupcake clause.”

The nutrition guidelines are part of the federal school lunch program’s standards, but reach beyond lunch. They include vending machines, concessions and school activities, including classroom parties and fundraising.

Those last two areas raised some concerns, and led to a couple of language changes in order to relax the rules a little.

One of the issues was selling food at athletic competitions that take place during the school day, such as the recent regional basketball tournament. Many non-students attend those activities, and, as Board Member Stephen Bradford pointed out, want their snacks during a game.

“And I think that we can do that by amending line 263, after ‘sold or served’ add the words, ‘Directly to KGBSD students,’” He said “In other words, they can still operate the concession stand, old guys like me can still go in and enjoy my popcorn and coke while I watch the basketball game. We just have to put up a note up for our own students that says you can’t buy anything until 30 minutes after the instructional period is over.”

That amendment passed unanimously, as did Bradford’s second suggestion, which provides an exception to the healthy food standards for special occasions.

“So the amendment would be, ‘Traditional or cultural foods may be exempted from the food standards described above for educational or special school or classroom events when offered free of charge,’” Board President Michelle O’Brien summed up.

Board Member Dave Timmerman then asked, “Does that cover cupcakes?”

Bradford answered, “Well, I believe that a cupcake, in our culture, is a standard item to be offered at a birthday.”

Student board member Evan Wick suggested a third amendment to the guidelines. He noted that the rules prohibit any kind of educational material or school display that includes a name-brand of an unhealthy food.

“I’ve brought with me some educational materials. This is my AP world history book. It has a picture of McDonald’s in it. That would fall under the brands or illustrations of unhealthful foods,” he said.

Wick then handed around a detail from a mural that covers a wall in the high school’s commons area. “It features a Burger King soda, fries and what appears to be a cheeseburger, which I do believe probably falls under unhealthful foods,” he said.

As the student representative, Wick isn’t allowed to make motions, but he asked the School Board to consider amending the regulation, adding the words “within reason.” Board Member Trevor Shaw complied, and the amendment passed unanimously.

The main motion also passed without dissent.

Approving it means that the district’s policies now are aligned with the 2010 federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

School board to consider vacancies at meeting

Mon, 2014-04-14 15:44

Petersburg’s school board Tuesday night will be considering the official resignation letters of two members: John Bringhurst and Dawn Ware. The board will decide how to approach filling those vacancies.

The board will consider a letter from Mike Hanley, Alaska’s Education Commissioner, officially granting the district’s request to let elementary students out of school four days early—on May 30th. The request was made by the district because of the construction project going on. The commissioner had already approved of the early-release verbally.

An update on the construction project will be given to the board. Because of the construction, the Lutheran Church is extending the use of its Fellowship kitchen to the district for its summer lunch program.

Also at the meeting, the board will continue to consider a possible memorial policy. The board last month reviewed sample memorial policies in other districts. The members want to discuss the policy development piece by piece.

Karen Quitslund, the district’s Finance Director, will update the board on the budget process to date which they plan to discuss.

The board will hear administrative reports from the Superintendent, Maintenance Director and the schools’ principals.

Superintendent Rob Thomason also will be reporting on a district survey for this month.

The school board meeting starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the borough assembly chambers. KFSK will be broadcasting the meeting live.

Bringing down the house!

Mon, 2014-04-14 15:37

The live show from The Cable House was quite the party! Regal Cheese and The Lost Boys both put on excellent performances, and it was a great end to our One-Day Spring Drive. If you missed it you can listen to the whole show below.

And if we missed YOU during our Spring Drive, it’s not too late to become a member of your community radio station by clicking this link:

We’re relying on you to make it to the goal!



Spawn on

Mon, 2014-04-14 15:30

Aerial view of the Starrigavan boat launch, looking south. (ADF&G photo)

After a week or so of relative quiet, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game observed nearly 3 miles of active herring spawn in Sitka Sound over the weekend. Area management biologist Dave Gordon reported “Spawn in Mosquito Cove and Katlian Bay light and dissipating. Spawn developing in Salisbury Sound from Marine Cove and north with a little spot inside of St John Baptist Bay. A light spawn on Point Brown in Hayward Strait as well as a small but intense start inside of Rob Pt. A good spawn going right off of Fred’s Creek, with several groups of sea lions outside the reef to the south of Fred’s Creek.” The department uses spawn mapping and dive surveys to study egg deposition and to help forecast next year’s biomass.

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