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September 2015 Fishlines Newsletter


Vol. 35, No. 9
September 2015

Coming up

New Go-To Website for Environmental Hazard Reporting

Oil spill cleanup

Alaska Sea Grant has launched a new website, Encountering Environmental Hazards on Alaska’s Coasts. The site describes environmental issues that may be encountered in Alaska coastal communities, and what action to take if hazards are observed.

Alaskans can read online about earthquakes and tsunamis, paralytic shellfish poisoning, harmful algal blooms, ocean acidification, and sea ice and rising ocean temperatures. Also covered are aquatic invasive species, marine mammal strandings, seabird mortality, and oil and hazardous substance spills as they affect wildlife. Each section has an overview and how to report an encounter, as well as links to further information.

Many local, state, and federal agencies, university programs, and nonprofits address environmental hazards, and it can be difficult to find out which organization can assist with a particular issue. This site is designed to help Alaska residents learn about environmental risks and locate the right experts. For example, a person who notices a sick sea lion near Dutch Harbor can go to the marine mammal stranding section of the website, find out why a sea lion might strand, read about the next steps, and report the animal to the NMFS Stranding Hotline if appropriate. Any data from the incident will go into a nationwide database and local stranding experts will be notified.

Reporting hazards as they are encountered can help scientists and agencies monitor changes in marine ecosystems, protect the marine resources Alaskans rely on, and minimize damage to the marine environment.

The website content was written by Emily Hutchinson, who interned with Alaska Sea Grant, with input from experts at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, several NOAA divisions, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey, and others. The idea for the website grew out of a partnership with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the Alaska Ocean Observing System. Funding was from NOAA.

Job Opening: Coastal Community Resilience and Adaptation Specialist

aerial view of coastal community

Alaska Sea Grant is recruiting applicants for a coastal community resilience and adaptation specialist. The research assistant professor position is open to candidates with a master’s degree or higher in a broad range of sciences or community planning, with experience in a field such as coastal hazards, coastal engineering, community planning, and rural development.

The search committee is looking for a new faculty member who will integrate into the current Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, bringing knowledge and skills in areas such as community hazard mitigation, economic resilience, and climate change adaptation planning.

“Alaskans are deeply connected to our coastline and see and feel the changes in our environment,” said Paula Cullenberg, Alaska Sea Grant director. “The fact that so many organizations have joined together collaboratively to fund this new position is a good indication that there is need to connect coastal residents with available tools and resources and share ways to adapt to these changes.” The position is funded by Alaska Sea Grant, Alaska Center for Climate Assessment, Alaska Ocean Observing System, and NOAA.

The new specialist will be based at the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program office in Anchorage. A more detailed description and instructions on how to apply are available at the University of Alaska Human Resources website.

Support for Historic Canneries Initiative

Old black and white picture of a cannery

Alaska Sea Grant is supporting the new Historic Canneries Initiative, overseen by the Alaska Historical Society. This is the first comprehensive effort to document and preserve the places and legacy of the Alaska seafood industry, and to record the stories of the fishermen and processors.

With early financial support, project leaders are promoting the initiative to recruit partners, and building an annotated bibliography. Initiative director Anjuli Grantham is gearing up to produce a monthly radio program and will write a regular column on Alaska fisheries history in Pacific Fishing. She will announce a mini grant program in October to jump-start local projects such as collecting photographs for museums and conducting oral histories.

The initiative came about because Alaskans have watched old canneries and maritime history “crumble into the sea” with little effort to record the history, said Grantham. “Canneries, fishing boats, etc., are privately owned and thus not held to federal laws regarding historic preservation and documentation,” she said. “A critical industry to Alaska's history is not receiving the attention it merits.”

Grantham, who is on the Alaska Historical Society board of directors, spearheaded the initiative by recruiting historians, anthropologists, biologists, and fishermen. “We determined to make this a grassroots movement. We hope to inspire communities, individuals, and businesses to document and preserve their own histories. Hopefully, this will inspire federal and state agencies to step in too,” she said.

Grantham is the curator of collections and exhibits at the Baranov Museum in Kodiak. For more information see the Historic Canneries Initiative.

Sea Otters Impact Commercial Species

4 researchers

Zac Hoyt, Alaska Sea Grant–funded PhD student, presented his thesis defense last month. He concluded the growing sea otter population in southern Southeast Alaska is impacting commercial shellfish through foraging, and expanding in range and abundance except where hunted for subsistence.

After 140 years of severe exploitation, in 1911 sea otters were nearly extinct in most of their former Alaska range. Without otters invertebrates flourished, and in the late 1900s commercial fishermen began targeting sea urchins, geoduck clams, and Dungeness crabs. Meanwhile, 106 sea otters were re-introduced to southern Southeast Alaska in 1968.

US Fish and Wildlife surveys show that the sea otter population in southern Southeast Alaska grew to over 13,000 individuals by 2011, and Hoyt's research shows that otters are rapidly impacting red sea urchin, are significantly reducing geoduck densities, and are associated with decreased harvest of Dungeness crab. As much as 46% of sea otter diet represented commercially important prey.

Hoyt concluded that sea otter populations will continue to expand in the area, and that commercial shellfisheries are probably unsustainable in the presence of sea otters. He suggests that conservation and management of sea otter populations could benefit from further study.

UAF professor Ginny Eckert is Hoyt’s faculty advisor, and Marine Advisory agent Sunny Rice collaborated on the research and outreach. To find out more about Alaska sea otter research please see the Southern Southeast Alaska Sea Otter Project.

19th Annual Alaska Tsunami Bowl

3 students and the coach

Team registration is open for the 2016 Alaska Regional Ocean Sciences Bowl, also known as the Alaska Tsunami Bowl. Ten out of a maximum of twenty teams have already signed up for the marine science quiz bowl and research project competition. Among the 2016 teams is Petersburg High School, coached by Marine Advisory agent Sunny Rice and teacher Joni Johnson.

The competition is scheduled for February 26–28, 2016, in Seward. For more information contact Phyllis Shoemaker, at the Seward Marine Center, UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

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