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June Fishlines Newsletter


Alaska Sea GrantVol. 35, No. 6
June 2015

Coming up

UAF Graduate Student Selected as 2016 Knauss Fellow

Erin Shew

Erin Shew, University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate student, has a strong interest in working with coastal Alaska residents as they maintain a voice in managing environmental policy and protecting cultural resources. Shew’s career preparation—graduate education and Alaska work experience—will soon be enhanced by a national opportunity.

Shew was selected as a 2016 National Sea Grant Knauss Fellow, to work in Washington D.C. for a year in marine policy. “I’m really grateful for this opportunity,” said Shew. “I’m excited to learn about policy creation at the federal level and I’m also excited to see what people in D.C. are talking about as far as marine issues in the north and Arctic.”

Originally from Kenai, Alaska, Shew is working toward her MA in northern studies with a focus on environmental policy. During the last two years she has conducted ethnographic research on subsistence resource use in rural Alaska villages with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. And she has worked as a research and teaching assistant in the UAF Political Science Department.

“Erin is dedicated to a career that focuses on sustainable, resilient coastal communities, an important concern in Alaska,” said Alaska Sea Grant director Paula Cullenberg. “I was struck by her understanding that sustainability includes economies, cultures, and livelihoods. I know that she’ll glean a lot from her year in Washington D.C., and when she returns to Alaska we will all benefit from her experience.”

Knauss Fellows receive a stipend while they are working in marine resource management and marine policy. Nominated by Alaska Sea Grant, Shew was one of 60 students selected nationwide from a pool of 120. She will join other fellows for placement week in November 2015 in the capital and will begin the fellowship in February 2016, in the executive branch of the federal government. For more on this story see Alaska Sea Grant News.

Erin Shew is the second student from UAF Arctic and Northern Studies to get a Sea Grant fellowship—Matt Robinson, selected as one of the first Alaska Sea Grant State Fellows, is also in that program. Current Sea Grant Knauss Fellow Thomas Farrugia will be in DC through January 2016. Farrugia, a PhD candidate in fisheries at UAF, writes a blog about his experience.

Fisheries Economists Meet in Ketchikan

man speaking to crowd

Members of the North American Association of Fisheries Economists gathered in record high numbers for the 8th biennial conference in Ketchikan in May. Coordinators Quentin Fong (Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory seafood marketing specialist), Keith Criddle (UAF Ted Stevens Distinguished Professor of Marine Policy), and others welcomed 142 fisheries economists to Southeast Alaska for great weather and excellent talks.

The opening reception was aboard an Allen Marine vessel that cruised between Ketchikan and Metlakatla. Attendees appreciated the opportunity to tour Trident Seafoods and the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association hatchery. Keynote speaker Lee Anderson helped streamline the last minute room switch to the Lumberjack Arena, where he gave well received recommendations for operationalizing ecosystem-based management in US fisheries.

“Many participants said the program was well balanced, and there was something for everybody,” said Fong. Alaska Sea Grant staff hosted the website for the NAAFE symposium, and Ketchikan Marine Advisory agent Gary Freitag and UAS staff assisted with on-site logistics.

PSP Efforts Help Protect Human Health

a bar graph

April marked the last collection of clams near Kodiak to test for paralytic shellfish poisoning under the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Recreational Shellfish Pilot Program. Marine Advisory agent Julie Matweyou has been working with the Kodiak Island Borough School District and the communities of Ouzinkie and Old Harbor to carry out the study. She traveled to both rural villages recently to present results of the three-year study at community potluck gatherings and to discuss local findings with middle school and high school students who were involved in the project.

PSP is a serious health risk for Alaska residents practicing subsistence and personal shellfish harvest. Poisoning can result from eating shellfish that have accumulated neurotoxins. While there is an effective testing program in place for commercially harvested shellfish in Alaska, there is currently no testing for personal harvest leaving residents vulnerable to illness.

On Kodiak Island Matweyou trained teachers, students and community volunteers to collect, prepare and ship clam samples to ADEC for testing. Over the three-year period many PSP levels continued to read above the “safe” FDA regulatory level of 80 micrograms per gram of tissue. The results confirmed that dangerous PSP levels come and go unpredictably in most locations. Matweyou has summarized the toxin levels [1 MB PDF]. One benefit of the project is that community members are more aware of PSP risk and they have access to experts.

In Unalaska Marine Advisory agent Melissa Good also works toward developing a safe shellfish harvest program. She regularly collects blue mussels for a PSP testing project led by the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association. Good publishes State of Alaska PSP test results on the Unalaska Facebook page for butter clams, blue mussels, littleneck clams, and Dungeness crabs for the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea.

"This is very informative web page that all of Alaska coastal residents should read," said Bruce Wright, APIA senior scientist.” Recent testing of butter clams at Sand Point showed levels of 241 micrograms per gram, well above the safe level. Experts say this may be the beginning of a dangerous PSP year.

"Based on previous PSP research in Unalaska Bay, we believe PSP occurrences are not uniformly distributed and that some localities may have low toxin levels while others simultaneously pose a threat to human health and life through the consumption of bivalves and crab innards,” said Good. Until monitoring and sampling protocols are established that are comprehensive for the region, local communities will not have the tools to respond to a changing environment and a threatened food source.

Matweyou and Good’s outreach and sampling efforts, and partners, help inform shellfish consumers about local harvest conditions.

Communities Celebrate Alaska Seas and Rivers

scientist addressing group of kids

This spring the Alaska Seas and Rivers program expanded to many schools as Alaska Sea Grant and partners continued to revive the “Sea Week” tradition. Schools and communities engaged more students this year to learn about their local environment through hands-on discovery in the classroom and on field trips.

In Anchorage 200 fourth and fifth graders tested stream water and concluded Chester Creek is still healthy enough to support salmon runs. In Yakutat, elementary students learned about siting an oyster farm, visited a fish weir, and counted marine invertebrates on a Gulf of Alaska beach.

In Unalaska efforts led by Marine Advisory agent Melissa Good, scientists taught students and the community about effects of marine debris on seabirds. All elementary students learned about marine invertebrates, water safety, and cold water diving, and they toured a seafood processing facility. In Dillingham elementary students went on a beach field trip to learn the importance of salmon migration to the community and displayed their marine illustrations in school hallways.

Learning about and celebrating the local marine and freshwater environment is again on its way to becoming a tradition in Alaska. The schools have engaged community experts such as Alaska Native Elders, scientists, and nonprofit educators, and experienced teachers have led new teachers in local environment instruction.

Marilyn Sigman, marine education specialist, has involved teachers in seas and rivers studies via her professional development workshops for integrating activities into school curricula from Alaska Sea Grant’s online Alaska Seas and Rivers. In addition, Alaska Sea Grant provided $10,000 grants to schools for field trip transportation and teaching kits. In 2016 Alaska Sea Grant will expand the partnership program to other communities and will sponsor an online Alaska Seas and Rivers event. For more information please see Alaska Sea Grant News.

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Fishlines is a monthly newsletter that highlights Alaska Sea Grant activities. Alaska Sea Grant supports wise use and conservation of Alaska's marine resources through research, education, and extension. Photo in banner by K. Byers. 

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