Yesterday, Sen. Begich stood with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, while the latter announced that the Federal Government has acted upon requests by our state congressional delegation and Gov. Sean Parnell, to declare the Yukon River a disaster area, because of the severe decline in Chinook salmon returns there. Some didn't expect a decision until late winter or early spring, so its announcement now is good news.
The Association of Village Council Presidents has been asking for Federal disaster relief for over two years. The congressional delegation asked for it in May. The Council had asked the Palin administration to make a request to the Feds in 2008, but it wasn't until the first few days of the Parnell administration that their plea was acknowledged and acted upon.
However, no money has been appropriated to deal with this ongoing, and I suspect, deepening ecological catastrophe. It is up to our congressional delegation and Congress to come up with funding for a plan. Regarding the economic impact, Anchorage Daily News reporter, Kyle Hopkins wrote Friday:
Chinook salmon sell for roughly $4 to $5 a pound and are the most valuable commercial fish in the region, said John Hilsinger, head of the state's Commercial Fisheries Division.
About 870 fishermen hold commercial king permits along the river, Hilsinger said. Most live in the cash-poor Lower Yukon, a region where villages reported a food-versus-fuel crisis last year.
Fishermen made roughly $2.25 million on Yukon River chinook in 2007, catching about 35,000 fish, Hilsinger said.
Those numbers plummeted over the next two years.
Poor returns led regulators to restrict commercial fishing in 2008, with the harvest 89 percent below the recent five-year average, according to the Commerce Department. In 2009, there was no commercial season and limited subsistence fishing -- the fish residents catch to feed their families and villages.
Regulators expect another poor season in 2010, Hilsinger said.
Some village and regional leaders blame the massive Bering Sea pollock fleet for the decline, saying some of the tens of thousands of king salmon caught by trawlers each year would otherwise return to the Yukon.
In a statement announcing the disaster declaration, the Commerce Department said the cause of the disappearing salmon isn't fully understood but that scientists believe it's primarily natural events: changing ocean and river conditions and changing temperatures and food sources.
The kings caught by the pollock fleet don't account for the magnitude of missing kings on the river, Hilsinger said. But given how few fish are returning to the Yukon overall, the salmon lost to bycatch could still determine how much commercial fishing, if any, is allowed on the river, he said.
Kyle's description of the Pollock fleet Chinook bycatch as in "the tens of thousands," is misleading. When those tens of thousands go over 200,000, they are in the hundreds of thousands. And that's just the reported numbers, not the real ones. Hopefully, Alaska's progressive bloggers will help put pressure on our elected Federal representatives to get money sensibly appropriated in ways that lead to long-term solutions, not band-aids and hand-outs.
For the price of one ABM missile test, we could double or triple the amount of scientific research that currently exists on the Yukon River ecosystem and its relationship to the Bering and Chukchi Seas, and to the North Pacific.
II. What Do I Know's Steve has moved to Juneau for the legislative session. What Do I Know? has long been my favorite Alaska blog, and Steve is likely to shed a completely different kind of light upon the 2010 session than will be shone by the Juneau Empire, the Associated Press and the Alaska Public Radio Network. I don't know whether or not the ADN is sending somebody this session. I doubt it. I doubt that the ADN will survive 2010. Nor do I know whether the well-funded Alaska Dispatch will spend a reporter to the capitol. Alice Rogoff, the Mommy Warbucks behind the Dispatch, is married to a billionaire merchant of death, for whom, the expense of paying a reporter to live in and report from Juneau for the session, would be the equivalent of Steve buying a glass of beer.
III. Several progressive Alaska blogs have touched upon the ongoing civil trial in San Francisco, over the legality of that state's Proposition 8. At the end of last week, I asked readers to consider contributing to the firedoglake fund to pay the expenses of their reporters at the court case. Steve wrote about the trial until he had to head over to Juneau. He links to the Prop8TrialTracker.
Bent Alaska is covering aspects of the trial, and also links to the trial tracker, and E. Ross noted in a comment reply to me:
There are several teams of live-bloggers sharing media passes to keep everyone informed: FDL, Bilerico, NCLR, and the Courage Campaign are live-blogging, along with several newspaper teams. Kudos to the dedicated bloggers!
IV. Speaking of Kudos - Kudos to Shannyn Moore as she returns next week to five-day-a-week talk radio on Anchorage's progressive radio station, KUDO. Moore, along with Steve Heimel and Nellie Moore at APRN/KSKA, is one of the best on-air interviewers in Alaska radio history. With all the contacts Shannyn has made and knowledge she seems to soak up from all sorts of sources and points of view, this program - to be aired from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. - should be good. I've learned that Jeremy Lansman has offered to do some work on KUDO's transmission system that should improve their signal quite a bit. I hope the station takes him up on the offer.
Thanks to John Klapperich at KMBQ/KBYR for having Shannyn on for the past eight months on Saturday evenings.
Moore will be on Anchorage's KYES TV this afternoon at 4:00 to 5:00 Alaska time, for her weekly Moore Up North interview and panel discussion program. This week, she will concentrate on the upcoming legislative session, with guests Deputy Revenue Commissioner Marcia Davis, Rep. Les Gara, and Rep. Harry Crawford.
V. Rep. Crawford, who has filed to run in the Democratic Party primary for the AK-AL U.S. House seat held by Rep. Don Young, was Friday's guest speaker at the monthly Mat-Su Democrats Egan Dinner. Many, including this writer, were underwhelmed. Rather than give a stump speech, Crawford attempted to answer questions in his folksy way. He wasn't prepared to answer with much substance on issues that the current legislature will face. Nor did he display much knowledge of the bills that have been pre-filed by other legislators.
I questioned him quite a bit. The first question he dodged, but I let him go. The second one, of interest to the Alaska blogging community, was about Rep. Mike Doogan's pre-filed bill that would force those who make requests for clarification of poorly written or unadhered to executive ethics standards, to keep their queries secret or have them dismissed. There are other aspects of Doogan's bill that make it just as bad as, if not worse, than Rep. Bob Lynn's similar bill.
Rep. Crawford wasn't even aware of Doogan's bill. Basically, after changing the subject on me to how charming Sarah Palin is when she obviously doesn't know shit (the Fire Island veto story - he loves to tell it). After getting him back on subject, he basically concluded with - I'm paraphrasing - "We need to do something about Executive Branch ethics, but don't look to me for any leadership on this whatsoever."
He rambled on about how we get our attorney general and how he might change that. His solution was heavily criticized by former Rep. Katie Hurley. I went around to the tables, offering Crawford contribulopes to attendees. Not many takers. Judy and I donated $50.00 to Rep. Crawford, though.