‘Fragile and unraveling’ ecosystems need protection
FRISCO — With President Barack Obama highlighting climate change during a visit to Alaska, conservation activists are renewing their call for the designation of Marine National Monuments in Alaskan waters.
Alaska communities seek international review of Canadian projects that will affect their rivers
FRISCO — Mining and energy development in western Canada is making some Alaskans uneasy, as they eye potential impacts to pristine salmon streams in the region.
Citing a bilateral environmental treaty, activists this week will meet with British Columbia’s Minister of Energy and Mines, Bill Bennett, when he visits Juneau and will ask him to support an international review of mine developments in northwest B.C.
FRISCO — Federal biologists said they’re launching an investigation into the cause of an unusually high number of whale deaths in the western Gulf of Alaska. In the past year, 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four unidentified cetaceans have stranded around the islands of the western Gulf of Alaska and the southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula.
As a result, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has declared a formal unusual mortality event, which triggers a focused, expert investigation. An unusual mortality event is a stranding event that is unexpected, involves a significant die-off of a marine mammal population, and demands immediate response. The number of large whale strandings for this region to almost three times the historical average for any comparable timespan. Continue reading “Scientists to investigate spate of Alaska whale strandings”→
New USGS study measures North Slope shoreline losses
FRISCO — In the eternal battle between land and sea, the sea appears to be winning in northern Alaska, where much of the coastline is retreating at a rate of more than three feet per year, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.
The region has some of the highest shoreline erosion rates in the world, according to the research, which analyzed more than 50 years worth of measurements.
Nationally, fires have scorched more than 2.5 million acres
FRISCO — U.S. Wildfire activity has surged above the 10-year average in the past few weeks, primarily because of what will be a record-breaking fire season in Alaska.
After months of mostly above-average temperatures, Alaska’s vast forests and brushlands were primed, and the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center is reporting that more 600 fires have burned across more than 1.8 million acres in the state.
Fires have caused evacuations, highway closures, and rail and flight disruptions. More than 350 structures have been damaged, including about 70 homes.
Above-average temperatures and a longstanding drought in the western U.S. are big factors in the wildfires burning in parts of Washington, Oregon and California.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are currently 26 major fires burning in Alaska. Nationally, the NIFC is reporting that about 26,000 fires have burned across more than 2.5 million acres for the year to-date, the highest number since 2011, when fires had already scorched more than 4.8 million acres by this time of year.
FRISCO — Ocean water around parts of Alaska is acidifying so fast that shellfish hatcheries may soon have to use costly treatment systems to continue commercial operations.
“Our research shows there could be significant effects from ocean acidification on Alaska’s emerging shellfish hatchery industry in a matter of two and half decades,” said Jeremy Mathis, Ph.D., an oceanographer at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and a co-author of the study, published this week in PLOS ONE.
Wildlife advocates say proposed hunt on Prince of Wales Island is unsustainable
FRISCO — A rare breed of wolves living on coastal islands in southeast Alaska is under the gun more than ever before, according to wildlife advocates who are protesting a state plan to allow hunting and trapping of an Alexander Archipelago wolf population on Prince of Wales Island.