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Science & Environment

Science and environmental reporting on news and community topics. Science coverage is occasionally provided by community members.

Berett Wilber/KUCB

 

On a sunny Tuesday night, about a dozen people are gathered on a dock. They’re practicing the skills needed to free a stranded whale.

Ed Lyman is up from Hawaii to lead the course. He has a lot of experience freeing entangled whales. He’s in town for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — working to build Unalaska’s response team.

“Here we are in Dutch Harbor, fishermen galore, capital of fishing, in many ways in the U.S.,” Lyman said. “So you have a lot of skill sets there already. But having to cut free a 40 ton whale is unique.”

KUCB

 

While Unalaska’s biggest subsistence salmon run got off to a slow start this season, it’s now at a sustainable level.

The start of the McLees Lake run was so low, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order early this month to protect the area around the mouth of the creek.

While there are a lot of factors at play, biologist Colton Lipka says low water could have affected the run and they are seeing that in places like the Orzinski Bay Weir near the Shumagin Islands.

salmonfishing.org

Counting Atka mackerel became really important, according to National Marine Fisheries Service Biologist Suzanne McDermott, when Steller sea lions were declared endangered in 1997.

“We learned that Atka mackerel are their main food item,” McDermott said. “That’s when we really started looking at them in relation to Steller sea lions.”

McDermott knows the mammals face competition for their food — from commercial fishermen. In 2016, Alaska fishermen caught and kept 55,000 metric tons of Atka mackerel, and discarded another 532 tons as bycatch.

Paul Wade, NOAA Fisheries

 

Before Bogoslof volcano started erupting, it was a haven for endangered Steller sea lions, fur seals, and sea birds. But scientists did not know when and if animals would return to the eastern Aleutian Island.

National Tsunami Warning Center screenshot

 

No tsunami is expected in the Aleutians, after a large earthquake near Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. The National Tsunami Warning Center briefly issued a tsunami advisory Monday for the western Aleutian Islands.

 

“There was a magnitude 6.5 [earthquake Monday] morning and this was a magnitude 7.8," said tsunami science warning officer Paul Huang. "In theory, we don't know when the next one will come. It could be a few minutes from now. It could be another 100 years.”

 

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