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AK Beat: Kenai River hits minimum goal for king salmon moving upstream

Alaska Dispatch News
Kevin Klott

Kenai River kings hit escapement minimum: A salmon management plan new in Cook Inlet this year might have left some personal-use dipnetters and commercial salmon setnetters unhappy, but it seems to have worked in meeting its primary goal of allowing late-run king salmon to make it back to Kenai River spawning grounds. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Wednesday reported more than 15,000 kings -- the minimum spawning goal -- safely past the fish-counting sonar in the river. The in-river sport fishery for kings closed July 31. A few of the fish are still being caught in commercial fisheries in the Inlet, but biologists are now projecting a total return of more than 17,000 before the year is over. To harvest millions of returning sockeye salmon while minimizing the king-salmon bycatch, state fishery managers this year allowed the commercial drift fleet to fish heavily early in the July season. That slowed the entry of sockeye into the Kenai and made it harder for dipnetters to get fish. Managers also limited the gear setnetters could use at times to limit king by-catch. Both management decisions were intended to keep the Kenai from overflowing with sockeye while protecting kings. The decisions left dipnetters and setnetters unhappy, but appear to have worked toward meeting the goals of the Alaska Board of Fisheries, which in the spring wrote a new Cook Inlet management plan to protect the struggling king run and allocate salmon between competing commercial, sport and personal-use interests.

Fairbanks radio station to keep APRN (for now): The public broadcasting stations in Fairbanks announced Thursday that they will tentatively continue airing Alaska Public Radio Network programming through the end of November. KUAC-FM said in July that it would withdraw from APRN by the end of August, citing $170,000 in university budget cuts. A statement Thursday from the University of Alaska Fairbanks said KUAC and APRN are looking for a way to continue broadcasting statewide news while working with a leaner budget. “KUAC values APRN programming and we are very appreciative of the step taken by APRN as we work our way through some very trying times,” Keith Martin, KUAC general manager, said in the statement. APRN fees are $33,256 a year. The network provides a daily half-hour news program and morning updates. 

Suspect reports himself for sexual abuse: Alaska State Troopers say a Glennallen man turned himself in to authorities on Wednesday for sexually abusing two children. Around 7:20 p.m. Monday, Kevin Talyat, 61, turned himself in to troopers, “stating he had sexually abused two children under the age of 12 years old on multiple occasions,” according to a trooper dispatch posted online Thursday. One of the victims was identified and interviewed. The victim corroborated Talyat’s account of the abuse, troopers reported. Talyat was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor. Troopers say the investigation is ongoing.

Caribou may be able to metabolize some pesticides: Caribou may be able to metabolize some pesticides, a new study from the University of Guelph in Ontario found, reports Science Daily. Pesticides and heavy metals tend to concentrate in animal tissues as they move up the food chain, with larger mammals and the predators who consume them -- including humans -- being exposed to the highest levels. But a toxicology study on Caribou in Canada’s Arctic found evidence that pesticides that are currently in use -- as opposed to banned “legacy” toxics, such as PCBs -- were being metabolized by caribou and the wolves that ate them: “By testing vegetation, the researchers found large enough concentrations of CUPs to confirm that they were entering the food chain,” Science Daily reports. “In caribou eating that vegetation, CUPs were also present, but they did not increase (biomagnify) significantly in caribou compared to their diet. The concentrations were even lower in wolves, suggesting sufficient metabolism of CUPs in both animals to prevent significant biomagnification.” That’s good news for people who depend on caribou as a subsistence food source, the study’s lead author noted.

July sea ice coverage is fourth lowest: Average Arctic sea ice cover in July was the fourth lowest for that month since satellite records began in 1979, the National Snow and Ice Data Center said on Wednesday. July ice coverage has declined at a rate of 7.4 percent per decade since the satellite measurements began, the center said, and last month’s coverage was in line with that trend. The melt rate last month was rapid in the first three weeks of last month, when a high-pressure system lingered over the Arctic Ocean and Barents Sea, but slowed considerably late in the month when that pressure system broke down, the center said. The low-pressure system was accompanied by cooler weather and counterclockwise winds that spread pieces of ice farther apart, the center said. The National Snow and Ice Data Center, based in Boulder, Colorado, classifies areas with at least 15 percent surface ice as ice-covered.

Fairbanks man faces felony charges for firing from moving truck: A Fairbanks man out to let off steam after work instead wound up facing low-level felony charges, reports the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. That’s because the man, 38-year-old Craig Logan Lant, tried to relieve stress by firing a pistol from the window of his moving truck, while driving on Spinach Creek Road, according to Alaska State Troopers. A driver coming from the opposite direction witnessed the incident and called police. Lant “stated that he knew it wasn’t a good idea, that he shouldn’t have done it, and wasn’t sure if there was anybody out in the trees he shot into, but was just letting out a bit of steam after work,” a trooper wrote in filing the charges, the News-Miner reports.

Russian Arctic craters likely methane-caused: Mysterious giant craters discovered last month in the Russian Arctic are likely the result of methane, which burst free as overlying permafrost melted with rising temperatures, according to a report in Nature. The origin of the striking craters, in the Yamal Peninsula region of Siberia, was the subject of intense speculation, with theories floated ranging from missiles to meteorites to aliens. Like Siberia, Alaska is known to hold reserves of methane trapped within permafrost.