ALL IN THE SAME TACO BOAT – Sitkans, many wearing face masks, line up this afternoon at the Sitka Elks Lodge food booth. With the pandemic, most of this year’s Sitka Independence Day events have been modified, but not entirely canceled. The American Legion and Sizzling Chow Cuisine also will have outdoor food booths. While there’s no downtown parade, there is a parade of classic cars that will tour Sitka streets beginning at 1 p.m. at Whale Park. A sing-along and military salute will take place on Totem Square 7 p.m. Friday and a fireworks display will take place 11:30 Friday night over Sitka Channel, with spectators asked to follow social distancing recommendations. The Rotary Club is holding its annual Duck Race on the fourth. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Trollers Ask City To Aid in Lawsuit

By ARIADNE WILL
Special to the Sentinel

In a special report at Tuesday’s Assembly meeting, the Alaska Trollers Association requested legal funding from the city to help ATA intervene in a lawsuit that threatens to close outside waters to Alaska’s commercial trollers.

Sitka troller Matt Donohoe, president of ATA, said the lawsuit was filed by the Puget Sound-based Wild Fish Conservancy, an organization formerly known as Washington Trout. The suit aims to close outside waters to trolling, which would decrease salmon stocks available to Sitka’s troll fleet.

The Wild Fish Conservancy has filed for an injunction to close federal waters to commercial trolling for Chinook effective July 1. The motion for an injunction is awaiting a decision by a judge in Seattle.

“Most of the king salmon is three miles offshore,” Donohoe told the Assembly Tuesday night. If the injunction is granted it will severely impact Sitka’s troll industry, he said.

Donohoe was joined by ATA board member Jim Moore at Tuesday’s meeting.

Donohoe told the Assembly that to engage in the lawsuit, ATA board members raised $6,600 out of their own pockets to pay for an attorney. Donohoe and ATA are requesting additional funds from the City to help with costs the board still faces. 

He said that one factor increasing the legal costs is the indication that the State of Alaska will not participate in the WFC lawsuit.

“We waited for the state to announce they were going to join the suit and they still have not,” Donohoe said.

In the packet provided to the Assembly, ATA said too that they are better situated to fight the lawsuit than the state. 

The chapter of NOAA Fisheries that is under scrutiny in WFC’s suit represents the Pacific Northwest, not Southeast Alaska.

“Unfortunately, WFC is disputing the SEAK chinook quota permitted by the Pacific Northwest region of [NOAA Fisheries],” ATA said.

This suit comes on the heels of a treaty negotiation that has already hurt the Alaska fishing fleet, Donohoe said.

“We had just gone through a really difficult treaty negotiation where we gave up more than 7.5% of our king salmon,” he said.

WFC says its lawsuit against NOAA Fisheries is aimed at protecting Southern Resident Killer Whales, which rely on Chinook as a food source. While some of these whale populations have been experiencing food shortages in recent years, the ATA points to studies showing that this is in large part from problems such as dams in the Columbia-Snake River watershed, a key Chinook spawning ground.

“The four lower Snake River dams kill millions of Chinook juveniles as they attempt to migrate downriver to the ocean,” the Endangered Species Coalition has declared. “Smolt-to-adult returns for wild Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon have declined by fourfold since the four lower dams were built.”

In addition to the dams that interfere with Chinook habitat, ATA has identified the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, as endangering the Southern Resident Killer Whale populations.

PCBs are man-made chemicals that are stored in an orca’s fat when consumed by the animals. The chemicals are present in Puget Sound chinook stocks, which certain SRKW pods feed on.

ATA and WFC agree that orcas in Puget Sound may consume up to 380 contaminated chinook per day, making the orcas that feed in the area susceptible to the effects of the chemicals. This includes endocrine and immune system disruption, which also can be passed on to orca calves through a mother’s milk.

ATA says that the L Pod - the SRKW pod at the center of the WFC lawsuit - is suffering the highest PCB contamination of “any mammal on earth.”

Though the population is suffering, these problems are not the result of troll practices in Southeast Alaska, Donohoe said.

ATA said in their written statement to the Assembly that Southeat Alaska chinook harvests are often blamed - incorrectly - for population decreases in the L Pod.

Donohoe, too, commented on this in his testimony.

“Here was this group saying that they want us to give up a lot more fish and a lot more territory for orcas that don’t come up here and for fish that don’t come up here,” he said.

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 7-2-20)

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 11:15 a.m. Wednesday.

New cases as of Monday: 39

Total statewide – 1,017

Total (cumulative) deaths – 14

Active cases in Sitka – 8 (6 resident; 2 non-resident)

Recovered cases in Sitka – 10 (7 resident; 3 non-resident)

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 68.

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

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Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020

NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHERS

TO READERS AND ADVERTISERS

For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website sitkasentinel.com. Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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