Rank #1: B.C. loses ‘sustainability certificate’ for Pacific salmon
Canada’s Pacific salmon fishing industry is losing its sustainability certification that’s key to accessing high-end markets worldwide.
The Marine Stewardship Council is a London-based group that sets the gold standard used to market seafood to eco-conscious consumers.
“If the oceans are to be healthy, productive and full of fish in the future, we have to fish sustainably,” says a narrator in one of its promotional videos.
Pacific salmon caught in both B.C. and Alaska are emblazoned with the MSC’s blue label showing it meets these standards. B.C. and Alaska salmon compete for the same global markets.
“We started with the MSC process back in 2000 after Alaska was first certified, just to be competitive with Alaska,” Canadian Pacific Sustainable Fisheries Society spokeswoman Christina Burridge in Vancouver told CoastAlaska. “And it’s really sad for us to be dropping out at this point.”
B.C. salmon industry will formally lose its certificate on Nov. 27 for its wild pink, chum and sockeye.
“It means that it reduces the number of customers who pay the most and who value sustainability,” she said.
Burridge says the decision was made to withdraw from the certificate rather than fail an impending audit by the MSC before it expires in 2022.
Core challenges to B.C.’s wild salmon were dwindling stock assessments north of Vancouver Island up to the Alaska boundary as well as wild salmon’s competition with domestic hatchery fish.
B.C.’s often-controversial Atlantic salmon farms were not a factor, she said. “It was simply the effect of hatchery fish on wild populations, which is, you know, also an issue for the Alaskan certification,” she said.
“But we believe that the fishery is ultimately sustainable,” she added, “we harvest a very low level so we’ll see if we can put it back together.”
Canada’s Pacific salmon industry will be able to reapply for its MSC certificate in three years.
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Oct 11 2019
Rank #2: Voters could re-shape Anchorage’s Assembly, shifting political power
Anchorage voters will decide on a measure that could transform the city’s politics in a subtle, but far reaching way. Residents will vote yes or no on an amendment to the municipal charter that would bump up the number of members on the Anchorage Assembly from 11 to 12. That will involve redistricting some of the geographical boundaries at the heart of local politics; something that has the potential to shift the body’s balance of power.
In Anchorage, not all of the city’s six political districts are equal. The east, west, midtown, south and Eagle River districts each have two representatives on the body. But since the mid-80s, the downtown district has had just one. The logic in the status quo is that the five bigger districts have more residents living in their boundaries, about twice the number living downtown, and so should have twice the representation.
But, that argument is losing sway.
“Unequal representation is a pretty basic concept,” said Heather Arrono, one of the people who spoke in favor of a proposal to put the switch on the ballot in this spring’s municipal elections during a Tuesday night Assembly meeting.
Other members of the public testified about the problems faced uniquely by the downtown district as a result of having just one member. For example, if that person gets sick or goes on vacation, approximately 30,000 residents then have no representation on the body as far-reaching decisions are made.
“There’s an incredible on-boarding process that comes with new members, and that takes time,” said Amanda Moser, who spent eight years working in the municipal clerk’s office and now heads the Anchorage Downtown Partnership.
“When you have complete turn-over of your representation,” she added, “you kind of lose that institutional knowledge.”
The ballot measure wouldn’t simply add a new member to downtown, it also calls for the Assembly’s district lines to be redrawn. That would happen in 2021, when the state will be doing the same thing with legislative boundaries as part of its own redistricting process. The downtown district would be expanded, and everybody else’s terrain would shrink just a little, giving each of the six sectors the same number of residents.
For several years, the Assembly’s makeup has grown steadily more progressive, working closely with the current mayor’s administration. Quietly, some sitting members worry that if the lines are re-drawn, they will lose some progressive-leaning neighborhoods and be faced with running for re-election in what could become more conservative constituencies. The measure passed, however, with overwhelming support, 9-2.
With an even number of members, ordinances would require seven votes to pass.
Pushback came from Eagle River, whose members were the lone no-votes on the measure. Crystal Kennedy framed it as a fairness issue.
“The concern in Chugiak-Eagle River is that we then actually end up diluting the vote,” she said. “For us, having to get six votes now to side with something going on in Eagle River can often be a challenge. Now it would have to be seven.”
Another Eagle River member, Fred Dyson, said that because so many people in the municipality use downtown, it has long been the case that other representatives look out for its interests.
“If the downtown is sick, the rest of the city gets pneumonia,” Dyson said. “But other areas could be in a ditch and it doesn’t affect our municipality. And it seems to me the Assembly has taken really good care of its downtown heart.”
Not everyone agrees with that, though. In addition to some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city, the downtown district also has many of the poorest. It houses a disproportionate number of social services, low-income and supportive housing, overnight shelters, bars and clubs, all of which create a unique set of problems for residents and municipal policy-makers. Many critics have pointed to Assembly’s structure as a partial explanation for that.
“By virtue of our organization, the poorest people in our community have one voice, and one seat that they can aspire toward,” said Christopher Constant, the downtown member, who has pushed hard to get the measure on the ballot. “If you compound that year in and year out since 1985, it’s a dozen opportunities people have missed to stand.”
Now, voters will decide whether or not to expand their representative body in April’s municipal elections.
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Oct 11 2019
Rank #3: These Republicans are pushing Murkowski to take a stand against Trump
A national group called Republicans for the Rule of Law is running ads aimed at moving Sen. Lisa Murkowski off the sidelines. They want her to criticize President Trump for asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. But both of Alaska’s senators have said they see shades of grey in the Ukraine picture.
This ad is showing up in Alaskans’ Facebook feeds. It’s focused, of course, on that call this summer, when Trump leaned on the Ukrainian president for an investigation of the Bidens.
“We think she will be receptive to the message,” said Chris Truax, a San Diego attorney who volunteers for the anti-Trump group. And yes, he said, they really are Republicans. One of their founders is former Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol.
“One of the running jokes at Republicans for Rule of Law is, we’ve all been Republicans far, far longer than Donald Trump has,” Truax said.
The group’s message is that Republicans need to put party politics aside, call out Trump for that phone call and defend what Truax calls the basics of American democracy.
“The right and wrong of this is very simple and straightforward,” he said. “‘No, Mr. President, you may not encourage a foreign government to investigate an American citizen for your political benefit. That’s wrong.'”
Just a month ago, Truax said, Republican members of Congress had no trouble condemning the idea of foreign government interference in an American election.
“And now that President Trump has decided it’s a beautiful thing and a wonderful thing, suddenly they’re completely silent on the topic,” he said. “And I’m embarrassed for them.”
The Alaska delegation is not completely silent. The day the White House released the rough transcript of the call two weeks ago, Murkowski said it raises questions about the president’s intentions.
Even without a quid pro quo, Murkowski said it’d be wrong if the president asked a foreign leader to dig up dirt on a political rival.
“I’d say that is highly improper,” she said Sept. 25. “I can’t tell, from that transcript, if that is what we’re dealing with.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan isn’t defending all of the president’s words in that call, but as he described it to KHNS in Haines on Monday, the phone call wasn’t really about the Bidens.
“Read the transcript. Because when you read it, I think what the President and his team are saying is he raised the issue of two things, looking at the previous 2016 election … That’s the focus of the whole discussion, and corruption in Ukraine,” Sullivan said, adding to the list “this issue of whether the prosecutor was drummed out” and then suggesting there may have been a problematic quid pro quo regarding Biden.
(Senior officials from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund were also pushing for the prosecutor’s dismissal, as Vice President Biden did in 2015, on grounds that the prosecutor wasn’t fighting Ukraine’s endemic corruption. There’s no evidence getting rid of the prosecutor provided a benefit to Biden or his family.)
Democrats and anti-Trump groups like Republicans for the Rule of Law say it’s clear in the transcript that Trump’s focus on corruption was limited to the Bidens. They say the transcript shows Trump was pursuing his political goals, not the national interest.
But Alaska Republican Party Chairman Glenn Clary says that’s not certain.
“It could be both,” Clary said. “I don’t know that it’s either/or. It could be both.”
Clary said he doesn’t hear Trump doing anything wrong in that call. He brought up an unrelated sum of money the Obama administration gave to a different country, for a different reason.
“In that regard, isn’t everything political?” Clary asked.
In his view, it’s the Democrats who are putting political interests first.
“It depends on who’s in charge, correct?” the Republican state chairman said. “If you don’t like somebody, and you want to neutralize them. Or you want to demonize them, and you’re in control, then you do everything possible to do those things to him.”
Truax, the spokesman for Republicans for the Rule of Law, said GOP leaders should free themselves from having to make excuses for Trump.
“Sen. Sullivan, Sen. Murkowski – every Republican in Congress, needs to make a decision about which side they’re going to stand on,” Truax said. “Twenty years from now, when all this is over, you’re going to look back on what you have done in this time, and you want to be proud of it.”
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Oct 09 2019
Rank #4: LISTEN: Who will answer Mat-Su police calls? A task force has a few ideas
The idea of having borough law enforcement in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough continues to take shape, predicated by a rise in crime, cuts to Alaska State Troopers and a directive from voters to look into ways to provide more officers in parts of the borough outside of its cities, which have their own police.
Anchorage Daily News reporter Zaz Hollander has been following the Mat-Su police task force’s progress and reports that one idea on the table is a new borough police force of potentially more than 100 officers.
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Oct 11 2019
Rank #5: National Native news outlet Indian Country Today announces Alaska bureau
Indian Country Today announced this week it’s opening an Alaska news bureau at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage. The online news site is one of the largest news organizations in the country solely dedicated to Native journalists reporting on Indigenous issues.
Indian Country Today has been around since the 80s, but was relaunched last year as a digital news outlet. Managing Editor Mark Trahant says that despite efforts in the past to diversify journalism in the country, other news organizations weren’t keeping pace with the country’s demographics. He says Indian Country Today is a step in that direction.
“We are now the most diverse population this country has ever seen and growing more so every day,” Trahant said. “And if the media doesn’t reflect that diversity, then it’s got some major problems reaching its consumers. So just from a practical point of view, it’s way overdue.”
Indian Country Today is based at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University and currently has one other bureau in Washington D.C. Alaska Pacific University began transitioning to a tribal college in late 2016, and Trahant says university officials were eager to partner with Indian Country Today to establish its second news bureau. Trahant says they picked the college over other media partners to put an emphasis on student journalism.
Trahant says Indian Country Today has already given students opportunities to be a part of major stories, including a recent interview with Steve Bullock, governor of Montana and a Democrat running for president.
“After the end of our Indian Country Today interview, we turned him over to a student for the next 10 minutes. And so a journalism student and a university is getting a firsthand chance to interview a candidate for President of the United States,” Trahant said. “That’s pretty cool and it’s a direct result of the partnership between the two institutions. I think that same sort of thing will happen at APU.”
Trahant is no stranger to Alaska. He’s a former Atwood Chair of Journalism at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Trahant says Alaska is normally overlooked in national discourse, so adding it to their news cycle was essential.
“It’s almost a metaphor that when you see a map of the United States, it has this cut-off portion that’s Alaska somewhere in the middle of the ocean,” Trahant said. “And I think that’s a metaphor for how most people see Alaska, instead of seeing it as an integral part.”
Trahant says climate change is one of the most hotly discussed news items in the world today, and he sees Alaska as a main stage for that coverage.
“We want to get stories that show resilience and adaptation and what people are doing that’s really interesting to prepare for a new world that’s not of their making,” Trahant said.
Other topics Trahant wants the bureau to cover include state budget cuts and the ongoing efforts to keep Alaska Native Languages alive.
Trahant says Indian Country Today has already posted several stories from their Alaska bureau, and they are in the final stages of hiring the newsroom’s two staff positions.
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Oct 15 2019