June 2011: from Ketchikan to Barrow


Alaska's Fisheries Lead the Nation

Alaska leads all states in the volume and value of commercial fisheries, and is home to the first and fourth highest-volume ports in the country - Dutch Harbor and Kodiak - according to a report sponsored by the Marine Conservation Alliance, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

Alaska produced more than half of the volume of commercial seafood harvested in the United States in 2009. The total value of Alaska?s commercial fishery harvest is estimated at $1.3 billion.


When seafood processing is included, it brings the wholesale total to more than $3.3 billion for the state, and when direct and indirect effects of the seafood industry are counted, the seafood industry contributed $4.6 billion to Alaska?s economic output in 2009, according to the report, The Seafood Industry in Alaska?s Economy.

The fishing industry is also reported to be the largest nongovernment employer statewide, with more than 70,000 workers, including harvesters and processors, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

Ben Potter
Researchers have uncovered the oldest cremated human remains ever discovered in northern North America at a site near the Tanana River. The child is estimated to have died 11,500 years ago.


Historic Remains Discovered

Researchers have uncovered the oldest cremated human remains ever discovered in northern North America at a site near the Tanana River. The 3-year-old is only the second Ice Age child discovered on the continent, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Archaeologists discovered the skeletal fragments and teeth in a fire pit in an abandoned living area from 13,200 years ago and dated the child?s death to about 11,500 years ago, according to research published in the journal Science. They have named the child Xaasaa Cheege Ts?eniin, which means ?Upper Sun River Mouth Child.?

Researchers uncovered a semicircular area where they think a small dwelling stood - likely a shallow depression in the ground with poles around the outside holding up animal skins or a sod roof. The researchers found debris from salmon and other food toward the bottom of the pit; the human remains were near the top, and they had been covered in dirt shortly before the dwelling was abandoned, the Anchorage Daily News reported. A small group of humans probably lived at the site while hunting and fishing. They used a pit in the dwelling for cooking and leaving food waste, and after the group cremated the child, the pit was filled with dirt and the living space abandoned, according to the researchers? hypothesis.

Based on the child?s teeth, researchers have speculated that the remains had traits of North Americans and Northeast Asians. Though the remains were cremated, researchers think DNA might still be present in them, the Anchorage Daily News reported.


Electrocuted bird was among oldest

  Robin Corcoran/USFWS
  One of the oldest bald eagles in the country, and one of the 10 oldest ever recorded, was electrocuted by a power line in Kodiak last winter.

A bald eagle that survived 25 years of Alaska hazards met an unfortunate fate last winter on the crossbar of a Kodiak utility pole: electrocution. A band attached to its leg showed the bird to be the second-oldest bald eagle documented in Alaska, one of the oldest in the country, and one of the 10 oldest ever recorded, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

The oldest eagle documented in the United States was a 32-year-old bird from Maine. Alaska?s oldest recorded eagle was a 28-year-old from the Chilkat Valley outside Haines, and a dead eagle that might have been 29 1/2 years old was found in late 2010 on Adak Island in the Aleutians.

The electrocuted bird was captured and banded in July 1989 as part of a research project into possible health damage from the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

James Dorondo
Results from the 2010 census show that Alaska?s population now exceeds 700,000.


State Grows by 83,000

Results of the 2010 federal census show that Alaska?s population has grown by 83,299 people since 2000 - up to 710,231 from 626,932 - and more than one-third of that growth happened in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Mat-Su?s population is now 88,995, up from 59,322 in 2000. The population of Anchorage grew from 260,283 in 2000 to 291,826 in the latest census, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Some Bush communities also grew, and Bethel, which increased from 5,471 to 6,080, continues to hold the title of the largest community on the American mainland unreachable by either road or ferry service.

But not all parts of the state are showing population increases. The biggest population loss was reported in the Yukon-Koyokuk region, down 14.7 percent, from 6,551 in 2000 to 5,588 in 2010, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The state has also experienced increased racial diversity, especially among residents under 18, building on a trend that began in the 1990s. The 2010 numbers report that 66 percent of the population is white; 14 percent is Alaska Native or American Indian; 5 percent is Asian; 3 percent is black; and 1 percent is Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Some ethnic and minority groups - Asians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics and people of more than one race - grew faster than the general population, the Anchorage Daily News reported. The number of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders living in Alaska more than doubled, from 3,309 to 7,409, and the number of Hispanics and Latinos grew more than 50 percent, from 25,852 in 2000 to 39,249 in 2010.



Warming global temperatures and melting sea ice may be bad news for polar bears, but the changes are creating a friendlier environment for some other species. Scientists studying the potential effects of oil and gas extraction in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas have found several commercial fish species - such as Pacific cod and walleye pollock - in places never before documented, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

A 2008 survey of the western Beaufort Sea by the National Marine Fisheries Service - the first offshore fish survey of the region in 30 years - revealed stocks of commercial fish species more typically caught in the Bering and North Pacific. The survey was the first to find commercial-size snow crab in the U.S. Arctic.

A second fish survey in the central Beaufort Sea is scheduled for this summer, the Anchorage Daily News reported.


Back-to-back Races Benefit Sled Dogs

A growing number of mushers are doing what was once thought impossible: racing their dog teams in both the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest and Iditarod Trail sled dog races back to back, just two weeks apart. Seven mushers did it earlier this year, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Race organizers were once concerned it could harm the dogs, putting too much stress on them as they ran nonstop for a week, rested for two weeks then did it again. But several attempted it in 2007, and one of them, Lance Mackey, won both races that year.

Researchers have now realized that not only is the exertion of the two races not too much for the dogs? bodies, it actually benefits them. The races act like two long, steady training sessions of 1,000 miles, and the dogs adapt and become physically and mentally fitter, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. But while it is no big deal for the dogs, two long races so close together can be tough on the mushers, physically, mentally and financially, and can be a logistical nightmare because drop bags full of dog food and other supplies to be shipped to the Iditarod checkpoints are due in Fairbanks at least a day before the first Quest racers come off the trail between Fairbanks and Whitehorse.

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