PERFECT WEATHER – Surfers assess the waves at Sandy Beach this morning. Waves were between 14- and 20-feet today. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Environmentalists Sue Over Ice Seal Habitat

By DAN JOLING
Associated Press
    ANCHORAGE (AP) — An environmental group sued the Trump administration today for failing to designate critical habitat for two species of seals that rely on sea ice off Alaska’s northwest coast.
    The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Department of Commerce and the National Marine Fisheries Service for not designating critical habitat for threatened ringed and bearded seals. Agency spokeswoman Julie Speegle said by email the agency does not comment on ongoing litigation.
    Designation of critical habitat for a threatened species is required by the Endangered Species Act a year after a listing. Federal agencies that authorize activities such as oil drilling within critical habitat must consult with wildlife managers to determine if threatened species will be affected.
    Center for Biological Diversity attorney Emily Jeffers, who drafted the lawsuit, said by phone from Oakland, California, that additional protections are needed for ringed and bearded seals, which already are losing habitat because of climate warming.
    “It’s where the rubber hits the roads in terms of actual protections,” she said.

An adult ringed seal is pictured near Kotzebue in a 2009 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photo. (Mike Cameron/NOAA via AP)

    Ringed and bearded seals live in the Bering and Chukchi seas. Though their numbers have not declined, they were listed as threatened in 2012 because of projected sea ice loss.
    The state of Alaska, oil industry groups and others sued in two lawsuits and the listing was vacated. However, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year reversed those decisions and said long-range data demonstrating a species decline is not required to adopt conservation policies to prevent the decline.
    “If you wait until their demise is certain, it’s too late,” Jeffers said Thursday.
    Ringed seals are the smallest and most numerous of Alaska’s ice seals and the main prey of another threatened species, polar bears.
    Ringed seals thrive in completely ice-covered Arctic waters because they maintain breathing holes with thick claws.
    After snow covers breathing holes, females excavate snow caves on sea ice. Inside those lairs, they give birth to pups that cannot survive in ice-cold water until weeks later when they have grown a blubber layer. Early breakup of sea ice, less snow and even rain threatens lairs, exposing pups to polar bears, Arctic foxes and freezing temperatures.
    Bearded seals get their name from short snouts covered with thick, long, white whiskers. Bearded seals give birth and rear pups on drifting pack ice.
    NOAA Fisheries officials announced Wednesday that at least 60 ice seals, including ringed, bearded and spotted seals, have been found dead this week on coastlines north and south of the Bering Strait. The cause has not been determined.
    The agency declared an unusual mortality event following abnormal molting and deaths of ice seals and walruses from 2011 to 2016. A definitive cause was not identified.
    The agency estimated that 657 seals were affected over those six years. Biologists confirmed symptoms in 233 dead and stranded seals, 179 seals killed by hunters and 245 live seals checked in health assessments.
   

August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:

 

On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff

 

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Alaska COVID-19 
At a Glance

(updated 11-24-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 12:25 a.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Monday: 578

Total statewide – 27,669

Total (cumulative) deaths – 115

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 619

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

The City of Sitka posted the following update on COVID-19 cases in Sitka as of 5 p.m. Monday.

Active cases in Sitka – 29

Hospitalizations in Sitka – 3

Cumulative Sitka cases – 176 (155 resident; 21 non-resident)

Cumulative recovered – 147 cumulative

The local case data are from the City of Sitka website.

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20 YEARS AGO
November 2000

Photo caption: A painting by the late Dr. Walt Massey hangs on the wall of the Pioneers Home dining room,. bringing smiles from home administrator Julie Smith and Massey’s son Brian and daughter-in-law Amy, the home’s dietary manager. The painting of early-day Sitka was done in 1971, the year Dr. Massey, an optometrist and artist, died. It originally hung in the Canoe Club and was given by the restaurant’s owner, Frank Richards, to local historian Joe Ashby, who gave it to the Pioneers Home.

50 YEARS AGO
November 1970

Photo  caption: Sitka High School band director James Hope receives a check for $2,000 from American Legion Post 13 Commander Carroll Kohler. The Legion had voted to contribute $1,000 for uniforms and the Auxiliary voted to match that amount. The check was presented at the Legion’s Veterans Day banquet.

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