Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Alaska Suggests New Fish Consumption Guidelines

From an Alaska Department of Health and Social Services News Release:

The health benefits from eating fish far outweigh any potential risk from the small amounts of contaminants found in most Alaska fish, according to guidelines released today by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. Public health scientists reaffirmed that fish continues to be an important part of a healthy diet for everyone, including pregnant and nursing women, and young children.

Recent data from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Fish Monitoring Program, which has tested over 2,300 fish, reveal a wide variation of mercury content among the 23 species of fish sampled from Alaska waters between 2001 and 2006. Although all fish contain some level of mercury, levels in all species of Alaska wild salmon are very low. Further evidence that Alaska fish are healthy to eat comes from the state’s ongoing free program that monitors mercury levels in the hair of Alaska women. State health officials have not received any reports of unsafe mercury levels in Alaskans who have eaten fish from local waters.

“Fish is an excellent source of lean protein, healthy omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins,” said Dr. Lori Verbrugge, toxicologist with Public Health and lead author of the new report. “Although we recommend that everyone eat fish at least twice a week, our new guidelines offer specific advice on how to minimize mercury exposure for sensitive groups — namely women who are or can become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children age 12 and under.”

Too much mercury, a toxic metal found in the environment, can harm the developing nervous system of unborn babies and growing children.

Only five species of sport-caught Alaska fish had high enough mercury levels to warrant limiting consumption to two meals or less per week for these sensitive groups. Yelloweye rockfish, large lingcod (40-45 inches) and large halibut (50-90 pounds) can be eaten as often as twice a week, while salmon shark, spiny dogfish, very large lingcod (over 45 inches) and very large halibut (over 90 pounds) can be consumed as often as once a week. Because commercially caught halibut weigh an average of about 33 pounds, halibut purchased from stores or restaurants is safe for this group to eat up to four times a week.

All other groups, including adult men, teenage boys, and women who cannot become pregnant, have no restrictions and are encouraged to consume as much fish from Alaska waters as they want. Those who are concerned about the mercury levels in certain fish species can minimize their risk by choosing fish lower in mercury, like smaller halibut and wild Alaska salmon.

The ADEC’s Fish Monitoring Program will continue to collect and test fish for environmental contaminants, and the consumption guidelines will be updated as needed. Begun in 2001, the program is an ongoing collaborative effort to collect and test Alaska fish for certain environmental contaminants. Partners include the Alaska Departments of Health and Social Services and Fish and Game, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the International Pacific Halibut Commission, and Alaska subsistence users and commercial fishermen.

Information on both the fish monitoring and human hair biomonitoring programs, as well as more comprehensive information for people who routinely eat more than two fish meals per week , is available online at http://www.epi.hss.state.ak.us and at http://www.dec.state.ak.us/eh/vet/fish.htm.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Chitina Dip Net Permits Must Be Returned by Oct 15

From an ADFG News Release

The Chitina personal use dip net fishery closed for the season on September 30, 2007. The dipnetting permits are due back to ADF&G by October 15. These permits were for dipnetting in the Copper River downstream of the Chitina- McCarthy bridge, near the community of Chitina.

As a reminder, you are required to return your permit even if you did not fish, or even if you went fishing but didn’t catch anything. Continuing the Chitina personal use fishing opportunity largely relies on your compliance with requirements, and your cooperation is greatly appreciated. Failure to return any ADF&G permit is a violation and could result in a $200 fine and loss of future fishing privileges.

Please review the information you wrote down on the permit to make sure it is legible and correct. If no one in your household went dipnetting, please check the “Did Not Fish” box on the permit and return it.

Permits can be mailed to the Department with appropriate postage. For your convenience the address is printed on the back of the permit. Permits can also be delivered to your local ADF&G office during regular business hours.

If you have lost your permit, or if it is too damaged to go through the mail, please mail a letter that includes your name, mailing address, 2007 sport fishing license number, driver’s license number, and names of household members. Please provide a list of each time you went dipnetting, whether you dipnetted from a boat or from the shore, and the number of each type of salmon you kept. If you went dipnetting but did not catch any fish, include the date, whether you dipnetted from a boat or the shore, and write “zero.” The letter should be mailed to:

Alaska Department of Fish & Game
Chitina Salmon Permits
333 Raspberry Roaf
Anchorage AK 99518-1599

We are unable to accept dipnetting harvest records over the telephone.

More information on the fishery, including examples of how to fill out permits can be found on the Internet.

If you have any questions regarding the Chitina dipnetting fishery, please contact the ADF&G office in Glennallen at (907) 822-3309.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery Update

From an ADFG News Release:

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game would like to take this opportunity to inform the public of the progress on the Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery being built in downtown Fairbanks. During this past year a team of consultants and ADF&G staff, have been busy obtaining permits, finalizing a lease agreement, performing geotechnical borings, drilling a water well, defining the design of the facility and preparing contract documents and issuing a competitive advertisement for the Phase 1 site work. We accepted a bid for site preparation and that work will begin this summer. We anticipate the work of excavation, backfilling and compaction of this site to be completed by the fall of this year.

Meanwhile our team continues to work on the design of the overall hatchery facility. We recently completed the 30% design schematic and are now working on the 60% design level which we expect to complete at the end of September. The 90% plans have a scheduled completion date of January 2008. The final construction plans should be ready to bid by June 2008. The design process has been time consuming due to water treatment requirements and the complexity of this type of hatchery. The time spent now on design issues will reduce the number of changes and the associated cost escalations which frequently occur during construction.

Our schedule presently shows the hatchery being completed in August 2009 followed by ADF&G occupancy and startup of operations in the fall of 2009. This meets our stated goal of having the Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery operational by 2010. Additional information about this project and the Anchorage Sport Fish Hatchery Project can be found here. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact: Gordon Garcia, Division of Sport Fish, Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Juneau at 907-465-4235.