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NOAA Fisheries taking comments on Gulf Rationalization. What do you think?
 

The LegHead Report

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Fish Radio with Laine Welch

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 Weekdays at 12:20 p.m.
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Jun 08 2015
Salmon Harvest Slows a Bit Over Weekend
Monday, 08 June 2015
Jay Barrett/KMXT
Commercial fishing slowed down quite a bit over the weekend after a relatively strong opening couple of days. 

Sockeye harvest Sunday was reported by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game as 3,608 fish, bringing the total to 25,530.

743 pinks were caught, along with 467 chum, 55 kings and 3 silvers.

Sunday's total harvest was 4,876, bringing the all-species harvest up to 29,422.
 
Jun 08 2015
The Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center Joins the Summer Fun & Games
Monday, 08 June 2015
kodiak_national_wildlife_refuge_2.jpgTwo children walk along a path during a Happy Trails outing. Via Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

For those of you looking for summer activities for your children, the flood gates are open. Groups around Kodiak are offering daytime and afternoon pursuits, and the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is one of them.

Three of those programs are:  FUN / Families Understanding Nature, WILD / Wildlife, Investigation, Learning, and Discovery, and HAPPY TRAILS. Lauren Harre is a Visitor Center intern and says Happy Trails is a program with a mission.

“Happy Trails is a little bit different from both WILD and FUN,” she says. “They both take place in the visitor center, and so they’re a lot more stationary. They do crafts, they do stories, and they learn a lot, but Happy Trails is kinda focused on getting people outside. It stems from this nation-wide program where it basically focuses on getting families out and recreating.”

Harre says on June 13 they’ll have a beach bingo and clean-up.

“I’ll make a bingo card that’ll have things like seaweed or find some beach glass or whatever, and if they get in a row, maybe they’ll win something. And then if they find trash, that’s the clean-up part. And I’ll hopefully talk about Leave No Trace and some other things like that to go along with the clean-up part,” says Harre.

While Happy Trails is on Saturdays, the other two programs meet during the week. Ava Kahn is Visitor Center Manager and adds that FUN runs throughout the year.

“It’s for three to five year olds and their families, and we do stories and crafts and games and activities and all of our programs are nature oriented and have a conservation mission that’s age appropriate to the audience that we’re giving the programs for,” says Kahn.

She says the third program, WILD, continues through the summer and is geared towards elementary school-aged children.
 
You can learn more about the classes by calling 487 – 2626 or visiting the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Facebook page.
 
Jun 08 2015
Council Halibut Bycatch Cut Leaves Nobody Satisfied
Monday, 08 June 2015
Rachel Waldholz/KCAW
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted Sunday evening to lower caps on halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea -- by 21-percent overall. 

But Bering Sea halibut fishermen say the cut isn’t big enough to save their communities. 

The vote came after impassioned public testimony stretching over three days. Halibut biomass has declined over the past decade, and fishermen in communities like St. Paul, in the Pribilof Islands, face the possibility of being shut down entirely. They hoped that reducing bycatch would make more halibut available to fish. 

Kodiak Councilmember Duncan Fields said the final vote didn’t go nearly far enough. 

“I acknowledge on a personal basis my identity with the folks living in Western Alaska,” Fields said. “And their loss of economic opportunity, personal identity, and cultural legacy. I get it….”

Alaska Fish & Game Commissioner Sam Cotten originally proposed a larger cut, of about 29-percent. He called it “the bare minimum” to protect Bering Sea fishermen.

But the Council adopted a smaller cut proposed by Bill Tweit of Washington State. Tweit said anything larger would be too steep for industry to absorb.

The numbers are tricky: While the final vote reduces the cap by about 21-percent, the affected fleets have been well under their caps in recent years. So the new cap is actually slightly higher than the total amount of bycatch taken last year. 

But the cut varies among different groups. Big flatfish trawlers, who are responsible for most of the bycatch, will take the biggest cut. They must reduce the amount of halibut they catch by about 15-percent from last year’s numbers.

“We’re extremely concerned about job loss in our fishery right now, about tying up vessels, and we need to sit down and assess the extent that this is going to damage our sector, said Chris Woodley, director of the Groundfish Forum, which represents many of those trawlers.

The cut passed six to three. Two Alaska members were forced to recuse themselves, in a controversial ruling by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

There’ll be more on this story this evening on APRN's Alaska News Nightly. 
 
Jun 08 2015
Assembly Adopts Borough Budget
Monday, 08 June 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

After a series of late nights and long meetings, the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly finally adopted its Fiscal Year 2016 Budget last Thursday at its regular meeting. General Manager Bud Cassidy says it’s not only a financial document, but also a statement of the Assembly’s philosophy.

“That philosophy is that education is a priority as well as non-profit funding, health care, economic development," says Cassidy. "Making lands available to young families is also a priority, affordable housing is a priority. Keeping the mill rate is important, but probably the big thing is the need to keep our multi-million dollar investment in public facilities up to snuff."

Cassidy says they hope to extend the structures’ life spans with their investment in those buildings. Assemblyman Dan Rohrer also notes the Assembly was able to able to increase the millage rate for the education support fund.

“Although with this substituted budget, we haven’t made it all the way there as far as what the school district has requested from us, I am pleased that we’ve at least gotten to the point where, of the $585,000 we were short-funding them from what they requested before, we were able to find at this point $240,000 of that,” says Rohrer.
 
The Assembly discussed a further amendment to the ordinance that would use money from the borough’s general fund for the Kodiak Island School District. Assemblyman Dan Rohrer spoke in opposition of the amendment, which he says would raise the usage of the fund balance, or unspent money from the previous year, to an all-time high.

“I’m very, very much in favor of education, but I’m more in support of having a balanced budget that is sustainable,” says Rohrer. “When I ran for election, I ran on financially sustainable Kodiak and I think in the economic times that we have in front of us, having the Kodiak Island Borough project to spend $921,000 of our fund balance is not prudent and it’s not sustainable.”

He says he is willing to increase funding to the Kodiak Island Borough School District if it’s accompanied by other cuts. Assemblywoman Carol Austerman spoke in favor of the amendment.

“I am hopeful that the school district will do their due diligence and it’s possible that maybe they won’t even need of all this money if the state does come back and funds them more than they’re expecting at this moment, but I think that while this is not an ideal situation for the borough, it is even less of an ideal situation for the school district,” says Austerman.

The Assembly carried the motion 5 to 1 in favor of the amendment with Rohrer voting against it. Rohrer then introduced an additional amendment to cut five categories. He suggested a Manager’s Office reduction of one unfilled staff position, a legal services reduction, the removal of the economic development summit, the removal of the contract services from Parks and Recreation for repair and replacement of borough-owned parks, and a reduction of Kodiak College’s financial gift.

“The biggest ones are the Kodiak College, the Parks and Rec, and the economic development,” Rohrer says. “I don’t like cutting any of those three, but I don’t see any other option. My point tonight is that if we choose to spend money in one area, you have to cut it in another area. And again, that’s the reality of writing a budget.”

Assemblyman Larry LeDoux says turning to the borough’s fund balance is not ideal.

“Because if you don’t have the money the following year, you’re going to find it through taxes, so it is very, very dangerous,” says LeDoux. “And I say this simply because from my perspective, because I don’t know the impact of these cuts even though I support them, I’m relying on the manager to make sure that we meet our fund balance goals, and I believe he’s in the best position to do it.”

LeDoux says given proper warning and discussion, he would support every one of the cuts next year. The Assembly voted against that added amendment.

The Borough Assembly’s next work session is scheduled for Thursday, June 11 and its next regular meeting for next Thursday, June 18.
 
Jun 05 2015
First Salmon Catch Figures In
Friday, 05 June 2015
Jay Barrett/KMXT
The first harvest figures from the Kodiak commercial salmon fishery that started Wednesday have come in. Total catch through yesterday is 12,227, as reported to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which released the figures this morning.
 

Over 11,400 sockeye have been delivered, with more than half coming from the Karluk, Northwest Kodiak and Southwest Afognak district. Another 3,300-plus were hauled in from the Northwest Afognak, Shuyak and Perenosa district and about 1,500 from the Duck, Izhut and Humpy-Deadman district.

Of the other species, 548 chum salmon have been caught, 137 pinks, 134-chinook and 5 silvers. 
 
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