The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

News briefs


Photo courtesy Valdez Fish Derbies

Bruce Cunningham of Fairbanks caught the biggest halibut in the derby last week – but it was not large enough to make the leader board.

Red run closed

(AP) State wildlife officials have ordered a shutdown of sport fishing for Copper River salmon, citing low salmon counts.

Mark Somerville is a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Glennallen. He says the closure likely will be for the entire season, though officials plan to monitor the situation.

Somerville says the department will evaluate whether restrictions on subsistence fishing are necessary.

KCAM reports that biologists believe warmer ocean temperatures are to blame for the low salmon returns. Temperatures up to 5 degrees higher than normal would cause increased metabolism and reduce food sources, limiting survival.

The Copper River commercial fishery has not reopened since closing late last month.

The commercial salmon harvest in Alaska's Copper River is so far the second lowest in 50 years, state officials said.

"One of the theories is that there had been a number of years of unusually warm water in the North Pacific that was referred to as the blob, and that is one of the things that folks believe is leading to the poor productivity, poor feed for the salmon and then poor salmon productivity because of that," said Art Nelson, a department spokesperson for commercial fisheries.

Tug crew rescue

The U.S. Coast Guard says it sent a helicopter to rescue a person from the tug boat "Sea Voyager" who was exhibiting heart attack symptoms.

"A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew medevaced a male crew member Wednesday from a tug vessel near Hinchinbrook Island," the Coast Guard said Thursday in a press release. "The Jayhawk helicopter crew hoisted the crewman from the tug Sea Voyager and transported him to Anchorage for further medical care."

The Coast Guard said that there was an emergency medical technician on board the "Sea Voyager" who administered medication as directed by his medical control before the patient was transported.

"Quick notification by the crew of the "Sea Voyager" was critical for this medevac," Petty Officer 1st Class David Parks, a Sector Anchorage watchstander, said in the prepared statement. "The prompt action and medical care by the EMT aboard the "Sea Voyager" aided our efforts to help the crewman get immediate medical attention."

Pot conflict

(AP) Alaska's Republican U.S. senators are supporting a bipartisan bill that seeks to ensure states' ability to regulate legal marijuana industries.

Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts originally co-authored the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Friday.

The bill looks at a number of areas in which state and federal marijuana laws conflict while also containing a number of safeguards to ensure states, territories and tribes continue to regulate marijuana safely.

States that have legalized marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes have struggled for the past several years with conflicting federal policies and the federal government's ever-changing stance on the industry, Sen. Lisa Murkowski said.

The bill would give states supremacy over marijuana regulations, she said. "No state will be forced to accept marijuana enterprises. But those states that choose to legalize will be freed of federal interference," Murkowski said.

The recently introduced bill offers a better solution than the Cole Memorandum repealed last year, Sen. Dan Sullivan said in a statement.

The memorandum was enacted under the Obama administration and added a level of separation between federal and state marijuana policies. It also advised federal attorneys to avoid prosecuting marijuana offenses in states such as Alaska, Washington and Colorado where the substance was legalized.

Pathogen found

(AP) A respiratory pathogen that scientists previously believed to be restricted to sheep and goats has been detected in moose and caribou in Alaska.

Scientists have also recently identified Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, also known as Movi, in other animal species for the first time, including a bison in Montana, mule deer in New Mexico and white-tailed deer in the upper Midwest, the Peninsula Clarion reported last week.

David Lienemann/Office of Governor Bill Walker

Gov. Walker last Wednesday, signing S.B. 26, H.B. 286, H.B. 285, and S.B. 142 at the UAA campus in Anchorage.

The pneumonia-like disease may have contributed to the death of an emaciated caribou from the Fortymile herd near Fairbanks, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said.

Lung samples of the caribou found dead last month were sent to the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Pullman, Washington, where the disease was confirmed.

Four Alaska caribou herds have tested positive for the bacterium, but sickness has not been observed, said Bruce Dale, the director of the state Division of Wildlife Conservation. Stored samples from the Fortymile caribou herd from 2013-14 have also tested positive for Movi, he said.

For Movi to cause respiratory illness, other pathogens and factors need to line up, according to the department. Animals can carry Movi without becoming sick, but environmental stress factors like hunger and other illnesses can allow it to cause symptoms.


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