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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

High PSP Levels Close Southeast Alaska Geoduck Clam Fishery

Thu, 2014-01-09 12:59

Southeast Alaska’s geoduck clam dive fishery did not open this week because high levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning were found.

Geoduck Clam siphon showing on the sea floor. Photo by Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Clams from eight fishing areas were sampled, and Fish and Game assistant Management Biologist Justin Brease says they all turned up positive.

“Looks like they tested eight areas for a potential opening, and all of those areas failed the PSP test, so therefore we didn’t have any areas left that we could open, so we didn’t have any openings for geoducks this week,” Brease said.

Brease says PSP testing frequently finds positive test results in the Southeast clams.  Often several areas will test positive. This time, all of them did.

“It isn’t necessarily all that unusual that they have positive results at all. In fact it’s not uncommon for there to be high results everywhere,” Brease said. “We’re kind of at the northern end of the range for geoduck clams and we typically have higher PSP levels than, say, down in Washington.”

The Southeast Alaska Region Dive Fisheries Association will go out and take more samples this weekend for a potential opening on Jan. 16.

The geoduck clam market is depressed right now because its biggest customer is China, which barred imports of West Coast geoducks last month claiming bad PSP and arsenic results that both Alaska and Washington State authorities said they had found no sign of.

Still, Washington closed a fishery area just in case and this week Alaska is unable to open any areas.

Dena’Ina Way of Living, at the Anchorage Museum

Thu, 2014-01-09 12:20

Hurry, you can still make it to Dena’Ina Way of Living with its preserved artifacts and dioramic recreations. Not to worry, the exhibition catalog will be available after the show closes; it’s a good read in cold dark January. Fact: more art aficionados read the book than see live work. Catalogs usually contain more information than what is chosen for museum walls.

Dena’inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi, the Dena’Ina Way of Living illustrates how a population lived thousands of years ago without electricity, running water and modern medicine; be humbled by those who came before. Ethnically Athabascan, the Dena’Ina, have been in the Cook Inlet region and its tributaries for millennia. The cultural focus of this show and catalog begins when Euro-American explorers arrived in the mid-to late eighteenth century and continues to the present.

While I was writing this essay, my daughter Jenn texted me from the Brooklyn Museum. She and her family went back East visiting siblings for New Year’s. Granddaughter Averyl is a fifth generation visitor. My mother was a Brooklyn artist; her father Irving practiced medicine from their Carlton Avenue home. Looking at the same paintings that relatives from a bygone era also contemplated is one way to experience a family’s culture. Today it is very common not to live where your ancestors did. Relocating means appreciating new cultures as my husband Dave and I did when moving to Alaska over forty years ago.

Going to my K Street office, I drive past Nordstrom, absorbed in whether I need more ink for the copier. I am oblivious to the Dena’Ina who once walked right under my tire treads as I think about dinner– is last night’s rice and chicken enough leftovers for two?

In the museum’s exhibition a Native male/mannequin harpoons a Beluga whale from an inverted tree trunk ingeniously stuck into mud flats. The message is clear, creativity is not a modern concept. Sure, the name Dena’Ina is on the new convention center and conferences often have Native dancers beating drums while waving fans—show over, everyone goes home.

What does it mean to look at glass-enclosed artifacts that were once someone’s utility item, most likely for survival? How does an artifact become an art piece? New York’s MoMA devotes an entire wing to twentieth century chairs and toasters. I am always amused when I see a piece of Pyrex or an early computer becoming the focal point for a lecturing docent.

Dena’Inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi begins with a diorama of a present day fish camp. Two adult women are wading in shallow water as they cut salmon on a makeshift table. One of the ladies wears a Helly Hansen parka. The other is wearing wraparound sunglasses. Nearby a small boy watches a catch basin of recently caught fish. He is wearing an ‘Alaska Grown’ sweatshirt. Even if museum goers have never experienced life in a fish camp, they can relate to these mannequins who are wearing clothing that can be purchased locally. Identifying with an art piece is one way to empathize with the message about preserving subsistence.

Europeans brought smallpox which reduced the Dena’Ina population, thus fewer Natives to sew clothing. When America bought Alaska in 1867, traders arrived with fabric bolts and readymade clothing. Missionaries encouraged western dress. Native lifestyles were affected by intruders, as was clothing. Tunics now sported collars or were abandoned for Western shirts and vests.

In the exhibition, a looping video of traditional Native dishes projects onto a dining table. Visitors pause to look down onto contemporary place settings as if becoming part of this virtual meal. Aboriginal fare of beaver, moose and berries are passed around by virtual contemporary Natives (only their hands are visible). This DVD and the fish camp diorama demonstrate how ancient customs are kept alive.

How do you relate to nineteenth century mittens or arrows in glass cases, no longer used as once intended? Boring, you say, as you give objects a cursory glance, thinking about that nice cup of tea you intend to sip after you breeze by the whittled wooden spoons and caribou hide tunics with the matching knee-high footwear. You are not alone; many visitors typically don’t feel connected. That’s because they don’t possess a narrative about the viewed artifacts. Hey, if museum goers can find a story in Lautrec’s café scenes or in Monet’s water lilies, they can construct one from Dena’Ina artifacts.

Summer Gloves with Strap, Tyonek (1883.)

Fire Bag for Powder and Lead (1883).

For example: here’s a pair of summer gloves, 1883, made from caribou. They are decorated with glass beads and dentalium shells, often a mark of wealth and indication of a trading culture. The gloves are attached to an embroidered string, similar to mittens sold today for infants. Unless our museum goers bought gloves to wear to a gala, chances are they bought winter gloves at, say, LL Bean. They can also afford to lose them too, they aren’t precious.

And visitors probably don’t care if the gloves are decorated. In fact, modern day machine washing would destroy beads and shells. Now look carefully at the care that went into making and maintaining the Dena’Ina gloves, their detail and design quality. Ancient cultures couldn’t run to a store or shop online for replacements. Without handmade outerwear, the Dena’Ina would have perished, which is why they highly valued and coveted their gear.

Here is a matching beaded fire bag with a velvet strap, 1883. Imagine the ego this hunter displayed wearing such flash, perhaps along with the gloves. Velvet for making the bag’s shoulder strap was acquired through trade. Recreational and subsistence hunters today might snicker at what would now be considered a feminine satchel, back then it was status—culture evolves.

Stone Lamp found at Fish Creek near Knik.

Here’s a stone lamp found around Fish Creek near Knik. The carving is delicate; there appears to be a figure, maybe a god, in the center. Did everyone have lamps? Probably not. As Heidegger commented, the meaning goes when the artwork leaves the temple, relocating to a museum. The spirituality of this piece may be lost to present day viewers but that doesn’t mean the onlooker can’t imagine, appreciating the lamp as both an artifact and a present day art form.

When approaching Anchorage International by air at night, lights from Girdwood to Wasilla appear on the horizon. Imagine the darkness these Dena’Ina endured thousands of years ago and how much appreciation came from a stone lamp.

Arrows for Sea Otter. Fort Kenai (1883).

Arrows, 1883, reside in an exhibition case like pencils in a desk drawer. While some tools are made from stone or bone, these have metal points. Were these projectiles made locally or was the metal traded? Someone had foresight to see that adding serrations to the blade anchored the material into the wooden shaft. Feathers had been attached to the other end of the arrows with sinew. Did these Dena’Ina know that feathers were needed for aerodynamics? How many animals suffered at the expense of misfires? Did hunters succumb to friendly fire? Was the shaman the only medical aid or psychological comfort?

Shaman Doll (1850-1900)

Here is a shaman doll, 1850-1900, many were destroyed by Russian Orthodox clergy who sensed a competitive spirituality. Can viewers differentiate between a religious icon and a child’s toy?

Ground Squirrel Parka Susitna River (1898-1899).

It took many ground squirrels to make this parka, 1898-1899. This garment is not unlike Western clothing styles made after the 1920s. Except for the tailored sleeves, the piece hangs without any cinching to the waistline. Was it itchy to the skin? Was it washable? What if the person gained weight? Was there a thrift shop, of sorts, for unwanted clothing? In the late eighteen hundreds, Dena’Ina seamstresses began selling their work to tourists and seamen as art works, thus bypassing original functionality.

When does an art piece become an artifact or vice-versa? Is it the monetary value that settles the score or is it established institutions that make the call after they’ve scarfed up the loot? For centuries art philosophers have tried to separate form from content. In the late twentieth century content, not necessarily the intent of the original work, got superimposed on unsuspecting forms by self-declared critics. In the end artifacts need a narrative to enliven form which loses sensuality when stuffed in a box away from its origin and intent. One has only to observe animal abstractions found on utility items from past civilizations to realize narration has been a human necessity.

If a story isn’t offered, make one up and share it over afternoon tea and a crumpet with a friend. If you miss Dena’Ina, Way of Living, the catalog is filled with Chris Arend’s photography along with a cultural narration about efforts to preserve the past in the present. Oh, note: readers will learn that a major collection arranged for this show was abruptly pulled and remains in St. Petersburg because of a 2012 Russian government ruling that prevents loans to American institutions.

Dena’Inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi, available on Amazon.

Masterpiece Mystery! Sherlock Series III – The Empty Hearse

Thu, 2014-01-09 11:20

Two years after Sherlock’s “death”, Dr. John Watson has got on with his life. But, with London under threat of a devastating terrorist attack, Sherlock is about to stage his outrageous resurrection. But if he thinks everything will be just as he left it, he’s in for a very big surprise…

  • TV: Sunday, 1/19 at 9:00 PM

AK Beat: Pair of Alaskans named to halibut commission

Thu, 2014-01-09 08:30
AK Beat: Pair of Alaskans named to halibut commission Two Alaskans have been appointed to the three-member International Pacific Halibut Commission.January 9, 2014

My Top 10 Tracks of 2013

Thu, 2014-01-09 08:00

For the fourth entry in my 10-track “Dime Piece” series, I tallied up my 10 favorite albums of 2013 and put a song from each in the mix. It’s got a little bit of anything (Editor’s note: including some NSFW language).

Mayer Hawthorne feat. Kendrick Lamar – “Crime”
Where Does this Door Go

First off is a cut off the new Mayer Hawthorne album. Fans of the blog will recognize the name from some of earlier blog posts. This cover of “Royals” is especially dope.

He’s come a long way since the classic soul sound of his debut on Stone’s Throw in ’09. The new album is on Universal’s Republic Records and he’s definitely trying to get his Donald Fagen on (not mad!) and has tracks with big name producers Jack Splash and Pharrell. This one featuring Kendrick Lamar has been getting run in my sets lately and since K Dot did a show at the Alaska State Fair this year, I thought it was a great way to start the mix off. Bonus link: Mayer started out as a DJ, check out one of his sets from infamous Sunday LA party, the Do-Over (one of my favorite parties).

7 Days of Funk – “Faden Away”
7 Days of Funk

When you’ve got as much juice as Snoop Dogg, you can just up and do a niche, nine-track side project. It doesn’t sound like Mr. Broadus put a ton of work into the lyrics on this album, but it’s really all about his stoney carefree flow over some slappers produced by G funk revivalist Dam Funk. This one came out on Stone’s Throw and even has an Archbishop Don Magic Juan co-sign and an official video. Crank up the jams and pretend your ride is actually a tinted out Cutlass. Bonus videos: Dam singing during a DJ set at the Do-Over. NSFW language.

DJ Day – “Boots in the Pool”
Land of 1,000 Chances

DJ Day dropped his first 12”, Gone Bad back in ‘05 and he got some shine in a DC shoe ad back in ’09 but he’s not as well known as RJD2 or other “instrumental hip hop” producers (That term is so corny it makes me cringe, but you know what I mean). How about if I said, “This album sounds like DJ Shadow at the beach sipping sangria.” It was executive produced by Piecelock 70 labelmate Thes One from People Under the Stairsand just has a great sunny, chill vibe. Bonus links: Video for the title track, Day’s stellar Do-Over sets.

Major Lazer feat Busy Signal, The Flexican and FS Green – Watch Out For This (Bumaye)
Free the Universe

Diplo is somehow able to work with big label artists (see: Chris Brown, Usher, Beyonce), stay huge in the DJ scene (I just said “instrumental hip hop,” I’m not saying “EDM”) and run his label, Mad Decent. All the while, he’s pushing crazy, non-commercial dance music that somehow crosses over to the mainstream. Case in point. It never occurred to me that a guy who made a mix I worshipped in ‘03, would be doing a blackberry commercial and getting nominated for a grammy.

Major Lazer is Diplo and Switch and a cast of Jamaicans who make wild, reggae-influenced dance music. Beyonce used this Major Lazer cut to make this and Diplo and the crew were daggering and twerking while Miley was still working for Disney. This is one of the tracks from the album that I would play out if I had a crowd open-minded and willing to get freaky. Bonus link: Bumaye video.

Daft Punk Feat. Giorgio Moroder – Giorgio by Moroder
Random Access Memories

Depending on your own personal combination of old and cynical, it was either super cool that Daft Punk was able to pay legends like Nile Rodgers to play on their album or you got grumpy and wondered if the people who liked “Get Lucky” were also huge “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” fans without realizing the same man was behind both riffs. I was definitely guilty of mixing from “We are Family” into “Get Lucky” at more than one wedding. From staple to summer jam while spanning 30 plus years without skipping a beat. It just shows talented Mr. Rodgers is (and how savvy Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo are). On my first listen of Random Access Memories, this cut instantly became my favorite. Digging for old soundtracks had me up on some of Giorgio’s earlier works like Midnight ExpressBattlestar Galactica and American Gigolo and when I heard that synth, I was hooked.

Classixx – Dominoes
Hanging Gardens

I put Classixx’s remix of Phoenix’s “Lisztomania” on one of my earlier mixes and I’ve kept an eye out for their releases since. One of my favorite moments of the last year was walking around Seattle and listening to this on headphones. From the opening track, “Hanging Gardens” the vibes on the whole thing are just perfect. Bonus Links: Classixx DJ set at the Do-Over. Oldies, but goodies: The Treasure Fingers and Gigameshremixes of “I’ll Get You”

Disclosure Feat. Aluna George – White Noise

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who didn’t like this album, just people who haven’t heard it yet. It’s that good.

Bonus link: I played another one of their songs, “When a Fire Starts to Burn” the other day during a gig at UAA. Listen / download to an hour of that set here.

Holy Ghost! – Bridge and Tunnel

Another group that’s been popping up on my mixes for years and my blog too. This is their second full-length and is another great batch of nu-disco jams with a bit of New York City grit.

Donna Summer – Dim All the Lights (Duke Dumont remix)
Love to Love You Donna

This full-length release of Donna Summer remixes was put together by someone in the know. Donna’s voice is obviously amazing and the centerpiece here, but the quality and selection of remixers is what makes or breaks a project like this and the selection here is top notch. They’ve enlisted Old school maestros like Frankie Knuckles and Masters at Work and some of my favorite current producers - ChromeoOliver,GigameshHot ChipJacques Greene and two names you’ll recognize from earlier in this list – Giorgio Moroder and Holy Ghost! This thing bangs. You might know Duke Dumont from this jam and I think he just nailed this one, letting Donna’s voice breathe and lacing the track with a great house vibe.

Kanye West – Black Skinhead

I’m a Kanye apologist. Say what you will about his personal life and interviews. But have you listened to this album? It’s crazy! It’s crazy good! This guy is making ART. Of all the tracks on this mix, this was the one I had the most trouble with. I knew I wanted to put on at the end as a standalone moment, but had trouble picking a song because they all have such a high level of emotion and punch. I ended up going with this because Daft Punk worked with him on producing it – but you probably wouldn’t know that unless you checked the liner notes.

BP returns to traditional concepts for long-delayed Liberty oil field

Thu, 2014-01-09 07:17
BP returns to traditional concepts for long-delayed Liberty oil field An ambitious plan to drill the offshore field from shore using the world's longest extended-reach wells did not work out. Now BP is reconsidering a stand-alone development with an artificial island similar to those used for years in offshore projects.January 9, 2014

Skeptics keep up pressure against Alaska Common Core education standards

Wed, 2014-01-08 22:02
Skeptics keep up pressure against Alaska Common Core education standards The nation's new standardized education standards have been a target for political activists, and recent legislative interim meetings indicate more clashes are on the horizon when lawmakers return to Juneau this month.January 8, 2014

Ice-road construction reaches new levels on Alaska's North Slope

Wed, 2014-01-08 21:52
Ice-road construction reaches new levels on Alaska's North Slope Construction of ice roads on Alaska's North Slope is growing steadily. The state has permitted 377 miles of such roads this year, the most in at least eight years.January 8, 2014

Investigation into narwhal tusk trafficking nets guilty pleas

Wed, 2014-01-08 21:32
Investigation into narwhal tusk trafficking nets guilty pleas Two men have admitted to illegally selling narwhal tusks in an operation that spanned across North America and into Alaska.January 8, 2014

Unusual weather disrupts timber industry in Sweden, bears' sleep in Finland

Wed, 2014-01-08 20:44
Unusual weather disrupts timber industry in Sweden, bears' sleep in Finland Warm weather in Sweden has made it hard to travel in the forests, while in Finland, also experiencing unusually temperate weather, rain has flooded the dens where bears are hibernating.January 8, 2014

Vic Fischer: Thank you, everyone working to repeal Alaska's oil giveaway

Wed, 2014-01-08 20:35
Vic Fischer: Thank you, everyone working to repeal Alaska's oil giveaway OPINION: Thanks to the hundreds of volunteers and tens of thousands of people who signed the referendum petition, Alaskans can now vote yes on Proposition 1 in the August primary.January 8, 2014

Wal-Mart, state hash out sustainability of Alaska salmon

Wed, 2014-01-08 20:27
Wal-Mart, state hash out sustainability of Alaska salmon After two days of meetings, state and industry leaders appear to have convinced the retail giant that Alaska salmon is sustainable enough to stay in 4,000 U.S. stores whether or not it's certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.January 8, 2014

Geomagnetic storm may create brilliant Alaska aurora displays

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:58
Geomagnetic storm may create brilliant Alaska aurora displays A geomagnetic storm is expected to create luminous northern lights displays visible as far south as some Lower 48 states for several days. It's a great time to keep your eyes to the skies, but a terrible time for a space walk.January 8, 2014

Mat Su Fish Commission, Mayor Don’t See Eye To Eye

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:26


The Mat- Su Borough’s Fish and Wildlife Commission has been working to bring back the area’s diminished salmon runs. According to Commission member Howard Delo, seven of the state Board of Fish’s ten stocks of concern are Mat Su salmon stocks. Diminishing salmon returns, especially of Chinook and coho salmon, are hurting the Borough’s once lucrative sport fishing economy. At Tuesday night’s joint Mat Su Assembly and Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting, Delo outlined the Commission’s priorities for spending the legislative funding available to the Borough for fishery research.

 ” I would say the most important fish economically to the Borough are silvers, cohos. And, quite frankly, with that drop in angler days, people are not coming to the Borough to fish, like they used to five years ago.”

 Delo said genetic testing has indicated that 8 to 13 percent of the commercial sockeye catch in Cook Inlet in 2011 are Northern District-bound fish. He says the Commission wants the state Board of Fisheries to authorize changes to the Northern District Salmon Management Plan so it focuses less on commercial interests in order to provide more fish for sports fishers upstream. He also said that with 1100 active commercial fishing permits compared with 400 thousand sports and dipnet fishers in Cook Inlet, it’s not right that the fisheries are managed primarily for commercial interests.

“The drift fleet is the big commercial group that intercepts Northern bound fish. “

Larry Engle, interim chair of the Commission, told the Assembly that funding for continued genetic research is essential for next year’s budget request.

Engle wants a genetic identification program for coho salmon since there is so little information on cohos in the Northern District.

The fish- centered dialogue continued, covering hatcheries, habitat, — even problems with Northern Pike.. but took a sharp turn when Assemblyman Jim Sykes brought up a letter signed by Engle, that the Commission had sent directly to Governor Sean Parnell.

 Engle’s mid-December letter, addressed concerns the Commission has with a HB 77/ SB26 and the bill’s restrictions on applications for instream flow reservations for salmon creeks. The letter praises the efforts of private citizen’s groups in work to reclaim Borough salmon habitat. Engle’s letter says “eliminating the ability of private partners to participate in fisheries stewardship will not benefit our fisheries” and asks the governor to withdraw the bill.

 But a week later, Borough mayor Larry DeVilbiss fired off his own letter to the governor, on Borough letterhead, applauding the goals of the governor’s bill and explaining that the Borough Assembly had twice voted not to weigh in on the pending legislation. The mayor’s letter made former Mat Su Assemblyman Warren Kehoe angry

“And mister mayor, not only have you come down squarely on the wrong side of the issue, but you are once again making unauthorized policy Borough policy statements. “

 Assemblyman Sykes than moved to direct the Borough manager to write another letter in support of the Commission’s view, to avoid perception of a conflict within the Borough.

 But that motion was flattened by a later move to postpone any more action on the issue until Assembly members can learn more about the governor’s legislation. Sykes said afterward he only wants the legislature to know that the Assembly supports the position of the Commission

 ”All I was asking here is to support what the work of the Wildlife Commission was. They operate on facts.”

 Mayor DeVilbiss, for his part, says he thinks that the Borough Assembly is only aware of one point of view on the proposed legislation.

“It was not an issue that the Assembly hadn’t already addressed. So to send a contrary signal required some backup information, and that’s all it was. It’s obviously not the end of the issue, because we are going to sit down and get educated on it, with DNR.”


A workshop has been scheduled so that the Borough Assembly can meet with the Department of Natural Resources to learn more about the governor’s bill.  



As courts consider Anchorage labor law rewrite, city uses it to negotiate with unions

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:25
As courts consider Anchorage labor law rewrite, city uses it to negotiate with unions As the Alaska Supreme Court hears arguments about whether a recall referendum can go on the ballot, the municipality has already seen some success in negotiating union contracts using the AO-37 labor law rewrite.January 8, 2014

Army Cuts Will Be Small For Alaska Military

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:15

Alaska will lose about 400 soldiers from U.S. Army Alaska operations and the announcement is being portrayed as good news from military officials in the state.

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JBER Spokesman John Pennell says Anchorage operations will lose 780 positions but Fort Wainwright will gain 367 for a net loss of around 375 soldiers by the end of 2015.

Pennell says the positions will largely come from cutting smaller units within the 2nd engineer brigade.

“Others will move to different headquarters within U.S. Army Alaska. For instance, the 6th Engineer Battalion, they’re an airborne qualified Engineer Battalion,” Pennell said. “They will move to the 425th airborne brigade combat team and become an engineer battalion within that brigade.”

The cuts were not a surprise; they are part of the 80,000 soldier draw down called for in the Budget Control Act of 2011. But Pennell says if you consider losses in other parts of the nation, Kentucky’s Fort Knox will lose 3800 to 4000 soldiers, an entire brigade combat team, the small cut to Alaska’s military positions is good news. Pennell says the Army values Alaska’s strategic position.

“Not only for the Arctic but also for the entire Pacific theater,” Pennell said. “And so, our two brigade combat teams, one here in Anchorage, the airborne team and one in Fairbanks, the Stryker Brigade team, they are valuable assets in a very strategically valuable location.”

Pennell also stressed that the smaller loss here is a reflection of the strong community support that Alaskans have always shown for the military.

He says mostly positions will not be re-filled as soldiers rotate out or retire. He says there will be some that will have their tours shortened but that will be on a case by case basis.

Marijuana Initiative Sponsors Submit Petition To Division Of Elections

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:14

Sponsors of an initiative to legalize marijuana in Alaska turned in their petition Wednesday to the Lieutenant Governor’s office.

(Marie Richie/Flickr)

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Initiative sponsor Tim Hinterberger says over 45,000 Alaskans signed the petition. And he is confident it has the statewide support it needs.

“The success of the signature drive was based on Alaskan voters’ desire to end marijuana prohibition and we expect that momentum to carry through to Election Day in August,” he said.

Hinterberger says the initiative lays out a regulation plan similar to that of alcohol.

“The initiative will replace the failed policy of prohibition in Alaska with a system of regulated production, sales and it will provide for taxation of sales in a regulated environment of sales that will require consumers to present ID and show proof of age,” he said.

The initiative would require buyers to be at least 21 years old.

If the Division of Elections certifies the petition, the initiative will appear on the primary election ballot in August.

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Researchers Say Ocean Acidification Could Make Fish Anxious, Impact Fisheries

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:13

Scientists have been saying for years that more carbon dioxide in the oceans is hurting sea life.

But a new study says the impact goes beyond the physical. It says ocean acidification is changing behavior in fish.

That could be a problem throughout the ecosystem – including for fisheries in Alaska.

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Researchers know that ocean acidification can be harmful. The change is caused by an increase in carbon dioxide in ocean water. More CO2 means a more acidic habitat. It can wear away crab shells and fish scales, and it makes it harder for them to grow back.

But what about how acidification is making those species feel?

Martín Tresguerres is a marine biologist based out of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. In a recent study, his team set out to look at what goes on in the brains of juvenile rockfish when they live in acidified waters. He says rockfish have predictable behaviors, so it’s easier to see changes happening in what they do.

“The normal fish, they’re used to moving between the shaded and light parts of the kelp forest,” he says. “For example — looking for food, or interacting with other fish.”

They wanted to see whether acidification would make the fish behave differently. To find out, they looked at certain neurons in the fishes’ brains. Those neurons are known to change what they do when fish has a high blood acid level. In a previous study on Australian clownfish, the change affected sense of smell.

Tresguerres says this study was looking at the same neurological process. For their experiment, they took a rockfish that lived in acidified waters and put it in a tank with two different-colored walls: one light, and one dark.

He says the acidified fish wanted to stay by the dark wall — and so did a fish that had been dosed with an anxiety-inducing drug.

“Ocean acidification affects their neurons in a way that maybe they feel more threatened and they prefer to stay more sheltered,” he says.

It might not sound too significant. But it points to something bigger — acidification was making the fish do the opposite of what they’d normally do.

“Depending on the species, if they normally go offshore at a certain period of time, or they might go to a certain area to spawn and reproduce, it might affect the way they interact with other fish,” he says. “So the potential implications are pretty big.”

Tresguerres’ co-author on the study is Trevor Hamilton, a neuroscientist based out of MacEwan University in Edmonton, Canada. He says the changes they saw would be really long-term in the wild — they looked at the kind of acidification that takes place over a hundred years.

But he says any species of fish in acidified waters is vulnerable to these same effects. Eventually, it could shake up the entire ecosystem.

“What could end up happening is the fish will spend less time leaving their safe environments,” he says. “There is potential for them to get caught by less nets, essentially, and get eaten by less predators. So it could have an effect all the way up the food chain as well as for general fishing for humans.”

And that’s a problem in the Bering Sea. Here, and in other places with colder waters, more carbon dioxide gets absorbed into the ocean, faster. That means these long-term changes might happen sooner.

“So in Alaska, you may see this effect happening a bit sooner, and it may be more pronounced,” he says. “And that would actually be a really, really interesting question to study — lower the water temperature and see what the effect would be.”

That’s part of their next phase of research. Hamilton and Tresguerres hope to do more field work after this. And they want to look at how fish might adapt to the effects of acidification — because that could mean behavioral changes, too. They call it a domino effect.

Hamilton says while this isn’t something that’ll wipe out any species overnight, it’s important for fishermen and regulators to be aware of.

“If this mechanism does actually occur in the future, we will see fish that are more likely to stay closer to their home environment, and explore different situations a lot less,” he says. “We don’t know if it will happen, but it’s something we should definitely be concerned about.”

Hamilton says they picked rockfish for their first study in part because the species is harvested commercially. He says if ocean acidification continues at its current rate, fishermen may see fish acting differently than they’re used to — and they may see fewer fish where they usually expect to find them.

Alleged Anchorage teen shooter gets $30,000 bail

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:13
Alleged Anchorage teen shooter gets $30,000 bail The teenager who allegedly shot a 22-year-old man in the back of the head early Tuesday morning in Anchorage had his bail increased to $30,000 during an initial court appearance Wednesday.January 8, 2014

Bethel Artists To Learn About Fish Skins

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:11

There aren’t a lot of luxury items that come out of southwest Alaska. But there is group of artists working with a product that Alaskans know quite well, if they’ve ever put away fish. Local artists have a chance to learn to work with fish skin and bring it to new audiences and customers.

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Fish skin has a long history in Alaska, but you probably haven’t seen it in garment or gallery form for a while. Fish skin disappeared with the introduction of other types of fabrics like cotton and Gore-Tex. But you should keep an eye out:

“Fish skin is really hot right now as a medium, mainly in Iceland, it’s become a type of fashion. People are creating garments and spiky three inch heels, and handbags, as well home decor like wallpaper.”

That’s Trina Landlord, the executive director of the Alaska Native Arts Foundation, a nonprofit that works to build markets for Alaska Native arts. She points to renewed interest in the material in Alaska. It makes sense. Fish skins are abundant and they’re often just thrown away. It makes for a strong and workable material with beautiful scales and the durability of leather. More and more artists have been taking up the medium, and locally, artists have requested training opportunities.

The group is putting on a week-long workshop in Bethel in February. It will be taught by Marlene Nielson, who is Yupik from the Iliamna area, and Joel Isaak who is an Athabascan artist. Alaska’s a natural place for fish skin innovation, and Landlord says people are beginning to notice.

“People are starting to revive that material. They’re dying it, they’re creating halter dresses and corsets. We’re taking that sort of international flare and honing it and bringing it home to Alaska,” said Landlord.

The class will help artists to learn both to work with the material, and to make a business of it.

“To help artists and to really build skills to market themselves, also develop biz skill and build on the foundation of their culture in able to be able to promote themselves as entrepreneurs in their art form,” said Landlord.

The group is looking for artists who are enthusiastic about opportunity and willing to share that knowledge with others. Partners include the Alaska State Council On Arts, the Cultural Center, and UAF. The application for the course is available  online.