Wednesday, September 2, 2009

KSKA and APRN Finally Go After Rural Alaska Problems in a Major Way - Is it Enough?

Over the past few days the Alaska Public Radio Network and Anchorage's KSKA-FM Public Radio have produced several segments or programs dealing with aspects of the deepening crisis in rural Alaska. Some of the material duplicates efforts by Alaska print media, some looks in the same direction as have Alaska's progressive bloggers.

Alaska News Nightly has carried several segments on rural issues since last Friday. Here is a rundown, with links:

Friday, August 28th: KYUK in Bethel had Shane Iverson look at the latest fishing restrictions on the Yukon River - fall Chums. These fish have a far higher fat content than the summer Chums, but their subsistence catch is being severely limited along the lower Yukon, exacerbating the already desperate situation facing rural residents there for the coming winter.

Monday, August 31st: APRN's Dave Donaldson interviewed Attorney General Daniel Sullivan, who is chairman of the Rural Action Sub-Cabinet. The AG is featured in over-the-phone actualities, vaguely describing what his sub-cabinet intends to do, to repair the major damage done to relations with Native Alaskans in the Bush during the Palin years.

Monday, August 31st: APRN's Annie Feldt interviewed UAF professor Katie Walter about increasing methane releases, during work last fall and this spring in the Seward Peninsula. Not very in-depth, but topical.

Monday, August 31st: APRN's Steve Heimel looks at why climate models show global warming is happening faster in Alaska than had earlier been predicted, because of "feedbacks, where warming causes changes which then cause more warming."

Tuesday, September 1st: APRN's Dave Donaldson continues and expands his interview with AG Sullivan, on the rural sub-cabinet. Tuesday's news had short versions of this interview that aren't available at the APRN website. But an audio download of his entire 30-minute interview with Sullivan is available here. Although Sullivan is unwilling to provide the kind of detail about the sub-cabinet I would have liked to hear him give, I can't help but think that we should be very, very glad he is AG, rather than Wayne Anthony Ross.

Peripherally, Sullivan alludes to the pressure for information being brought to bear on the activities of this group by Alaska bloggers, most notably and assiduously, by Anonymous Bloggers' Ann Strongheart.

Tuesday, September 1st: Steve Heimel's Talk of Alaska program, which covered rural issues, is not yet available. nor does there appear to be any reference to the program at the APRN web site. The first part of the program was devoted mostly to important water quality issues and public health.

Tuesday, September 1st: KSKA-FM's Lori Townsend's August interview with NOAA Director Jane Lubchenco was finally aired. It is 30 minutes long. Lubchenco's questions had been pre-screened, so she knew everything Townsend ws going to ask. Yet Lubchenco dryly hesitates before each carefully bland answer. I'm realizing more and more that my earlier enthusiasm for this dubious apparatchik with questionable ties to investment firms who stand to make hundreds of millions through the privatization of publicly held oceanic fishery resources, was sorely misplaced.

Here's how Lubchenco dealt with the Bering Sea trawler-Yukon River Chinook disaster:

Townsend: King Salmon returns have been low on the Yukon river, which has been devastating for people who depend on the fish to fill their freezers. Many blame the Pollock fishing fleet, who end up taking salmon as by catch. Is there anything NOAA can do to address that problem?

Lubchenco (transcript by PA): It's pretty clear that the Chinook salmon runs are down, and that the consequences are indeed being felt in Western Alaskan communities. A lot of attention has been focused on reducing the catch of salmon by the Pollack fishery, and the remedies recently endorsed by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, I believe, will help in that regard. NOAA fisheries staff is developing a proposed rule to implement the council's proposed program, and this proposed rule is scheduled to be published for public review and comment in late 2009.

If it's approved, the new Chinook salmon bycatch program would be in place for the 2011 fishery. We do have scientific data from fisheries observers to estimate the amount of salmon bycatch, but - unfortunately - we don't have very good information on the other factors that might also be effecting those salmon.

I think I can safely say that NOAA will continue to work with the council, with the fishing industry, with the local communities, to reduce salmon bycatch in Alaska. It's a concern in many fisheries, and NOAA is committed to reducing bycatch, but also to having sustainable fisheries. We're also reviewing the recent request from Gov. Parnell to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke requesting a disaster declaration because of the poor Chinook salmon runs from the Yukon River. So, those are under review as we speak.

This isn't even tepidly reassuring. Lubchenco's statement, "NOAA will continue to work with the council, with the fishing industry, with the local communities, to reduce salmon bycatch in Alaska," could easily mean, given the context of the rest of this interview, and her statements at the Oceans Task Force meeting last month, that, if you insert "CDQ groups" for the words "local communities," the people approaching desperation there are as close to cultural genocide as they ever have been.

Good job, though, APRN and KSKA!

image - Jane Lubchenco at Anchorage's APRN studio last month


Martha Unalaska Yard Sign said...

I just love the way you take a mini vacation - wish I had your kind of energy! After we are done bandying about all the committees, task forces, panels, advisory committees, it's time to get into the CDQs. These keep coming up, and many urban people (and villagers, too) do not understand how they work, what they are for, is there oversight?

CDQs - here we come (well, soon anyway). Phil - once again your work is outstanding. You are a champion for Rural Alaska (as we all should be).

Steven J Heimel said...

Jane L is a minimalist in media response. I personally know she is very aware of the marine factors that might be at work in salmon population dynamics but she's not going to ask for trouble by getting into them unless she's pushed to. She wants the science behind her and data on pasturing areas and possible deterioration of prey quality are both scarce. She is right that they finally cracked down on bycatch - it just took them six or seven years.

Anonymous said...

it's donaldson, not donelson.

Steven J Heimel said...

Shane Iverson has been doing some excellent work on these issues from KYUK, including a bunch of other ones you didn't list. Often he does stories that are not picked up by other media.

Philip Munger said...

Thanks, Steve. I'm not nearly as optimistic at this point on Lubchenco as you seem to be.

When is the last time APRN did a report on what the cumulative 2009 Bering Sea bycatch is at this point of the season? Or a report on how hard it actually is to get hard numbers on a weekly or even monthly basis on the cumulative bycatch of separate species in separate fisheries? Maybe you did one and I missed it.

...fixed the spelling of Donaldson's name...