Paralytic shellfish toxin warning issued for Sitka’s North Starrigavan Beach and other Southeast beaches

The SouthEast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research (SEATOR) project, SouthEast Alaska Tribal Toxins (SEATT) partnership and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Environmental Research Lab (STAERL) on Monday, June 5, issued an advisory warning that people should not eat molluscan shellfish (bivalves such as clams, oysters, scallops, mussels, geoducks, cockles, etc.) harvested at North Starrigavan Beach North in Sitka.

This is one of several recent advisory warnings issued by SEATOR about elevated levels of the paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins above the FDA regulatory limit of 80µg/100g. Recent warnings have been issued for all species of molluscan shellfish at three beaches in Ketchikan (with extremely high levels that could be deadly), Metlakatla, Craig, Kodiak and Hoonah. There also are species-specific warnings issued in Klawock and Skagway.

Harmful algal blooms, such as paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), typically have not been monitored in Southeast Alaska for subsistence and recreational harvesters of clams, mussels, oysters, cockles, and other bivalves (commercial harvests are tested). Even though many people in Southeast Alaska love to harvest shellfish, eating it comes with some risks. There have been several PSP outbreaks in recent years that sent people to the hospital, and in 2010 two deaths were attributed to PSP and other HABs, such as Alexandrium, Pseudo-nitzchia and Dinophysis.

The PSP advisories are for bivalve shellfish that have been recreationally or subsistence harvested. It does not apply to commercially harvested shellfish, which are tested before they enter the market. The advisory does not apply to other shellfish, such as crabs or shrimp, which do not carry PSP (unless you eat the crab butter or viscera).

The warnings, according to SEATOR, “This does not ‘certify’ any of our monitored sites. Conditions may change rapidly and data is site-specific. Caution should always be taken prior to harvesting.”

SEATOR posts updates and information to its website at seator.org/data, which can help provide Southeast Alaska residents with reliable information so they can choose whether or not to harvest shellfish. In addition to testing water samples weekly from certain Southeast beaches, STAERL also tests samples of butter clams, littleneck clams, and blue mussels (which is STAERL’s indicator species, because of how quickly blue mussels absorb saxotoxins).

In addition to the saxitoxins that cause PSP, the lab in Sitka has been monitoring for other blooms that cause amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP). PSP and ASP can cause severe health problems, including death in some cases.

Since most beaches in Alaska aren’t tested for harmful algal blooms, SEATOR and the SEATT partnership were formed in October 2014 to train people to test beaches in Southeast Alaska. In April 2015, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska opened a regional lab on Katlian Street, so samples could be tested in Sitka without having to be sent to the Lower 48, which delayed results. By testing for harmful algal blooms, SEATOR and the SEATT partnership hope to be able to provide information so people can make informed choices whether or not to harvest or eat shellfish.

To learn more about harmful algal blooms and how they can raise the risk for PSP and ASP (amnesic shellfish poisoning, which also can be fatal), go to SEATOR’s resources page. If you have shellfish you recently harvested and want to test it, click this link to learn what you need to do to have it tested by STAERL or watch this video. SEATOR also has a new Facebook page, where people can find updates. Please contact STAERL at 747-7395 with any additional questions.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) advisory lifted for Starrigavan Beach North in Sitka, but others remain

snapshotseatorshellfish11172016

The SouthEast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research (SEATOR) project, SouthEast Alaska Tribal Toxins (SEATT) partnership and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Environmental Research Lab (STAERL) on Thursday, Nov. 17, lifted an advisory warning that people should not eat molluscan shellfish (bivalves such as clams, oysters, scallops, mussels, geoducks, cockles, etc.) harvested at Starrigavan Beach North in Sitka.

However, the recent harmful algal bloom warning for the Sitka Sound Science Center Beach remains in place. There also have been new warnings issued on Wednesday, Nov. 16, for Gartina/Harbor Way Beach in Hoonah and the Annette Island/Moss Point and Sand Bar beaches in Metlakatla.

Esther Kennedy of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Resource Protection Department samples water near the Starrigavan Recreation Area dock for marine biotoxins such as paralytic shellfish poisoning. (Photos by Emily Kwong, KCAW-Raven Radio)

Esther Kennedy of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Resource Protection Department samples water near the Starrigavan Recreation Area dock for marine biotoxins such as paralytic shellfish poisoning. (Photo by Emily Kwong, KCAW-Raven Radio)

Samples harvested by STAERL at Starrigavan Beach North on Monday, Oct. 31, had elevated levels of the paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins above the FDA regulatory limit of 80µg/100g. When samples were taken on Monday, Nov. 14, the toxin levels had dropped below the regulatory limit, which allowed SEATOR to lift the advisory, which includes little-neck clams, butter clams and cockle clams.

The Sitka Sound Science Center Beach advisory is based on shellfish harvested on Oct. 24. Molluscan shellfish from this site should not be harvested at this time. The Hoonah and Metlakatla advisories are based on shellfish harvested on Monday, Nov. 14, having PSP toxins above the FDA regulatory limit.

The PSP advisories are for bivalve shellfish that have been recreationally or subsistence harvested. It does not apply to commercially harvested shellfish, which are tested before they enter the market. The advisory does not apply to other shellfish, such as crabs or shrimp, which do not carry PSP (unless you eat the crab butter or viscera).

There have been several harmful algal bloom alerts released by SEATOR this summer, but this recent announcement is a good reminder that PSP can happen throughout the year. It also discredits the myth that you don’t have to worry about shellfish harvested in months containing an R.

According to SEATOR, “This does not ‘certify’ any of our monitored sites. Conditions may change rapidly and data is site-specific. Caution should always be taken prior to harvesting.”

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

SEATOR posts updates and information to its website at seator.org/data, which can help provide Southeast Alaska residents with reliable information so they can choose whether or not to harvest shellfish. In addition to testing water samples weekly from certain Southeast beaches, STAERL also tests samples of butter clams, littleneck clams, and blue mussels (which is STAERL’s indicator species, because of how quickly blue mussels absorb saxotoxins).

In addition to the saxitoxins that cause PSP, the lab in Sitka has been monitoring for other blooms that cause amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP). PSP and ASP can cause severe health problems, including death in some cases.

Since most beaches in Alaska aren’t tested for harmful algal blooms, SEATOR and the SEATT partnership were formed in October 2014 to train people to test beaches in Southeast Alaska. In April 2015, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska opened a regional lab on Katlian Street, so samples could be tested in Sitka without having to be sent to the Lower 48, which delayed results. By testing for harmful algal blooms, SEATOR and the SEATT partnership hope to be able to provide information so people can make informed choices whether or not to harvest or eat shellfish.

Harmful algal blooms, such as paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), typically have not been monitored in Southeast Alaska for subsistence and recreational harvesters of clams, mussels, oysters, cockles, and other bivalves (commercial harvests are tested). Even though many people in Southeast Alaska love to harvest shellfish, eating it comes with some risks. There have been several PSP outbreaks in recent years that sent people to the hospital, and in 2010 two deaths were attributed to PSP and other HABs, such as Alexandrium, Pseudo-nitzchia and Dinophysis.

To learn more about harmful algal blooms and how they can raise the risk for PSP and ASP (amnesic shellfish poisoning, which also can be fatal), go to SEATOR’s resources page. If you have shellfish you recently harvested and want to test it, click this link to learn what you need to do to have it tested by STAERL or watch this video. SEATOR also has a new Facebook page, where people can find updates. Please contact STAERL at 747-7395 with any additional questions.

New harmful algal bloom warning issued for shellfish harvested in Starrigavan Beach North in Sitka

snapshotpspadvisory

The SouthEast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research (SEATOR) project, SouthEast Alaska Tribal Toxins (SEATT) partnership and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Environmental Research Lab (STAERL) on Friday, Nov. 4, issued a warning that people should not eat molluscan shellfish (bivalves such as clams, oysters, scallops, mussels, geoducks, cockles, etc.) harvested at Starrigavan Beach North in Sitka. There also is a recent harmful algal bloom warning for the Sitka Sound Science Center Beach.

Esther Kennedy of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Resource Protection Department samples water near the Starrigavan Recreation Area dock for marine biotoxins such as paralytic shellfish poisoning. (Photos by Emily Kwong, KCAW-Raven Radio)

Esther Kennedy of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Resource Protection Department samples water near the Starrigavan Recreation Area dock for marine biotoxins such as paralytic shellfish poisoning. (Photo by Emily Kwong, KCAW-Raven Radio)

Samples at Starrigavan Beach North harvested Oct. 31 had elevated levels of the paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins above theFDA regulatory limit of 80µg/100g. The Sitka Sound Science Center Beach advisory is based on shellfish harvested on Oct. 24. Molluscan shellfish from these sites should not be harvested at this time.

The PSP advisory is for bivalve shellfish that have been recreationally or subsistence harvested. It does not apply to commercially harvested shellfish, which are tested before they enter the market. The advisory does not apply to other shellfish, such as crabs or shrimp, which do not carry PSP (unless you eat the crab butter or viscera).

There have been several harmful algal bloom alerts released by SEATOR this summer, but this recent announcement is a good reminder that PSP can happen throughout the year. It also discredits the myth that you don’t have to worry about shellfish harvested in months containing an R.

According to SEATOR, “This does not ‘certify’ any of our monitored sites. Conditions may change rapidly and data is site-specific. Caution should always be taken prior to harvesting.”

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

SEATOR posts updates and information to its website at seator.org/data, which can help provide Southeast Alaska residents with reliable information so they can choose whether or not to harvest shellfish. In addition to testing water samples weekly from certain Southeast beaches, STAERL also tests samples of butter clams, littleneck clams, and blue mussels (which is STAERL’s indicator species, because of how quickly blue mussels absorb saxotoxins).

In addition to the saxitoxins that cause PSP, the lab in Sitka has been monitoring for other blooms that cause amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP). PSP and ASP can cause severe health problems, including death in some cases.

Since most beaches in Alaska aren’t tested for harmful algal blooms, SEATOR and the SEATT partnership were formed in October 2014 to train people to test beaches in Southeast Alaska. In April 2015, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska opened a regional lab on Katlian Street, so samples could be tested in Sitka without having to be sent to the Lower 48, which delayed results. By testing for harmful algal blooms, SEATOR and the SEATT partnership hope to be able to provide information so people can make informed choices whether or not to harvest or eat shellfish.

Harmful algal blooms, such as paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), typically have not been monitored in Southeast Alaska for subsistence and recreational harvesters of clams, mussels, oysters, cockles, and other bivalves (commercial harvests are tested). Even though many people in Southeast Alaska love to harvest shellfish, eating it comes with some risks. There have been several PSP outbreaks in recent years that sent people to the hospital, and in 2010 two deaths were attributed to PSP and other HABs, such as Alexandrium, Pseudo-nitzchia and Dinophysis.

To learn more about harmful algal blooms and how they can raise the risk for PSP and ASP (amnesic shellfish poisoning, which also can be fatal), go to SEATOR’s resources page. If you have shellfish you recently harvested and want to test it, click this link to learn what you need to do to have it tested by STAERL or watch this video. SEATOR also has a new Facebook page, where people can find updates. Please contact STAERL at 747-7395 with any additional questions.

USDA awards $496,840 grant to Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition to develop a food hub network

SLFNBoothOnionsCarrots

logo_southeast-alaska-watershed-council_15Farmers and fishermen in Southeast Alaska will soon be able to expand their markets through a recent grant to the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition and its partners from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The grant was part of more than $56 million in local and community food system and organic research grants announced on Sept. 28. This was the only project from Alaska to receive funding.

The grant award is for $496,840, with a match of $178,327, and it will be used to sell and distribute local foods throughout the region over the next three years.  This is the grant description posted with the list of grant winners in the Local Food Promotion Program:

Localizing the Food System in Southeast Alaska: Building Markets and Supply Award

In Southeast Alaska, a more reliable food supply and improved access to local food are critical to self‐reliance and community resiliency. The vast majority of food consumed in Southeast Alaska is shipped in by barge or plane thus increasing its cost and decreasing its nutritional value. The Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition (SAWC) and its diverse partners propose to increase the consumption of, access to, and production of Southeast Alaska (SEAK) local foods. This will be accomplished by developing new market opportunities using a food hub model. Through a two‐part approach, SAWC and partners will; 1) provide critical training, technical assistance, and business development services to local food entrepreneurs; and 2) increase the consumption of and access to locally produced products through the development of the Southeast Alaska Food Hub Network (SEAK‐FHN).

The Southeast Alaska Watershed Council is working with Haa Aaní, the Sustainable Southeast Partnership and the Takshanuk Watershed Council (Haines) to develop the regional food hub, which they hope will improve food security in the region while also developing new food-related businesses.

TraysOfSalmonPortionsAccording to a post on the Southeast Alaska Watershed Council website, “In Southeast Alaska, improved access to local foods and a more reliable food supply are critical components of self-reliance and community resiliency. Residents of the region’s rural communities face high and rising costs of living, a declining state economy, and dependence upon air and water transport for delivery of basic commodities including food and petroleum products. According to a report commissioned by the Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services, 95 percent of the food purchased in Alaska is imported, often shipped through extensive supply chains arriving by truck, airplane, and barge.

“The high cost of imported foods and lengthy supply chain make Southeast Alaska communities vulnerable to unforeseen disruptions in larger national food and transport systems, and send local dollars outside of the state. Many communities throughout the region have begun prioritizing the development of a localized food system to promote economic development, increase food security, and bolster the resiliency of Southeast Alaska communities.”

savethedateIn an interview with KSTK-FM radio in Petersburg, SAWC Executive Director Angie Flickinger said the system would be based on an online marketplace, allowing producers such as existing farms in Haines and Petersburg to sell their products throughout the region. The Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition is based in Wrangell and has member community watershed coalitions in Haines, Skagway, Juneau and on Prince of Wales Island.

“And we would allow consumers to go on there and purchase foods,” Flickinger said. “We would set distribution centers where we would aggregate those foods and either ship them out, or set up a date where folks from the community could come and pick up those foods.”

Flickinger said the coalition hopes to build two distribution centers in Juneau and Haines. Both distribution centers will have cold-storage facilities, and will be certified by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for food safety. The project also will help host the second biannual Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit on Feb. 24-27, 2017, in Haines.

Flickinger told KSTK that this idea was sparked from a feasibility study the Takshanuk Watershed Council did last year examining the market for local foods in Haines.

“So that kind of helped spawn this concept where we thought if we combined a lot of these producers who are based throughout the region, we could create a bigger market and make it more accessible.”

New harmful algal bloom warnings issued for shellfish harvested in Starrigavan Beach, other SE beaches

SEATORPSPWarningAug17

The SouthEast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research (SEATOR) project, SouthEast Alaska Tribal Toxins (SEATT) partnership and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Environmental Research Lab (STAERL) on Wednesday, Aug. 17, issued a warning that people should not eat shellfish harvested at Starrigavan Beach in Sitka and Hydaburg Beach in Hydaburg.

Esther Kennedy of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Resource Protection Department samples water near the Starrigavan Recreation Area dock for marine biotoxins such as paralytic shellfish poisoning. (Photos by Emily Kwong, KCAW-Raven Radio)

Esther Kennedy of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Resource Protection Department samples water near the Starrigavan Recreation Area dock for marine biotoxins such as paralytic shellfish poisoning in 2015. (Photo by Emily Kwong, KCAW-Raven Radio)

Samples harvested Aug. 17 at those beaches showed the presence of Alexandrium, a phytoplankton that produces saxitoxins that can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). Mulluscan shellfish (bivalve shellfish such as clams, mussels, oysters, cockles, scallops, etc.) from these sites should not be harvested at this time.

In addition, mulluscan shellfish from Hydaburg Beach on Aug. 17 tested near or above the regulatory limit of 80μg/100g for saxitoxins and all species of mulluscan shellfish should not be harvested at this time. On Aug. 18, butter clams from Shoemaker Beach in Wrangell tested near or above the regulatory limit of 80μg/100g for saxitoxins and should not be harvested at this time.

The PSP advisory is for bivalve shellfish that have been recreationally or subsistence harvested. It does not apply to commercially harvested shellfish, which are tested before they enter the market. The advisory does not apply to other shellfish, such as crabs or shrimp, which do not carry PSP (unless you eat the crab butter or viscera).

There have been several harmful algal bloom alerts released by SEATOR this summer, but it’s the first one in about a month or so for Sitka. In addition to the saxitoxins that cause PSP, the lab in Sitka has been monitoring for other blooms that cause amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP). PSP and ASP can cause severe health problems, including death in some cases.

According to SEATOR, “This does not ‘certify’ any of our monitored sites. Conditions may change rapidly and data is site-specific. Caution should always be taken prior to harvesting.”

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

SEATOR posts updates and information to its website at seator.org/data, which can help provide Southeast Alaska residents with reliable information so they can choose whether or not to harvest shellfish. In addition to testing water samples weekly from certain Southeast beaches, STAERL also tests samples of butter clams, littleneck clams, and blue mussels (which is STAERL’s indicator species, because of how quickly blue mussels absorb saxotoxins).

Since most beaches in Alaska aren’t tested for harmful algal blooms, SEATOR and the SEATT partnership were formed in October 2014 to train people to test beaches in Southeast Alaska. In April 2015, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska opened a regional lab on Katlian Street, so samples could be tested in Sitka without having to be sent to the Lower 48, which delayed results. By testing for harmful algal blooms, SEATOR and the SEATT partnership hope to be able to provide information so people can make informed choices whether or not to harvest or eat shellfish.

Harmful algal blooms, such as paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), typically have not been monitored in Southeast Alaska for subsistence and recreational harvesters of clams, mussels, oysters, cockles, and other bivalves (commercial harvests are tested). Even though many people in Southeast Alaska love to harvest shellfish, eating it comes with some risks. There have been several PSP outbreaks in recent years that sent people to the hospital, and in 2010 two deaths were attributed to PSP and other HABs, such as Alexandrium, Pseudo-nitzchia and Dinophysis.

To learn more about harmful algal blooms and how they can raise the risk for PSP and ASP (amnesic shellfish poisoning, which also can be fatal), go to SEATOR’s resources page. If you have shellfish you recently harvested and want to test it, click this link to learn what you need to do to have it tested by STAERL. Please contact STAERL at 747-7395 with any additional questions.

Harmful algal bloom expands PSP advisory to several Southeast Alaska beaches

SEATORDataUpdate06102016

Seator-Logo-Best-June-30-2015-7pm-215x215The SouthEast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research (SEATOR) project, SouthEast Alaska Tribal Toxins (SEATT) partnership and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Environmental Research Lab (STAERL) have expanded a recent paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) advisory to include more beaches in Southeast Alaska.

The advisory, initially announced on May 26, now includes multiple beaches in Sitka, Juneau, Craig, Petersburg, and Klawock. The PSP advisory is for bivalve shellfish — such as clams, mussels, oysters, cockles, scallops, geoducks, etc. — that have been recreationally or subsistence harvested. It does not apply to commercially harvested shellfish, which are tested before they enter the market. The advisory does not apply to other shellfish, such as crabs or shrimp, which do not carry PSP (unless you eat the crab butter/viscera).

According to a SEATOR press release, “Recent samples on June 6 confirmed elevated levels of Alexandrium, the phytoplankton species that produces saxtoxins causing PSP, have been observed at the following locations and shellfish from these sites should not be harvested at this time.” The affected beaches from June 6 are Auke Bay, Amalga Harbor, Eagle Beach, and Auke Rec beaches in Juneau; Cloud 9 and Graveyard beaches in Craig; Starrigavan beach in Sitka; and the Boat Ramp beach in Klawock.

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

In addition, the press release said, “On June 9 shellfish from the following sites tested above the regulatory limit of 80µg/100g for saxitoxins and should not be harvested at this time.” The June 9 list of beaches includes Sandy Beach in Petersburg (butter clams only); Auke Bay, Amalga Harbor, Eagle Beach, and Auke Rec beaches in Juneau; Aleutkina Bay, No Through Fare Bay, Magoun Islands, and Starrigavan (butter clams only) beaches in Sitka; and the Boat Ramp beach in Klawock. The advisory is for all shellfish on all beaches, except where noted.

According to SEATOR, “This does not ‘certify’ any of our monitored sites. Conditions may change rapidly and data is site-specific. Caution should always be taken prior to harvesting.”

SEATOR posts updates and information to its website at seator.org/data, which can help provide Southeast Alaska residents with reliable information so they can choose whether or not to harvest shellfish. In addition to testing water samples weekly from certain Southeast beaches, STAERL also tests samples of butter clams, littleneck clams, and blue mussels (which is STAERL’s indicator species because of how quickly blue mussels absorb saxotoxins).

Since most beaches in Alaska aren’t tested for harmful algal blooms, SEATOR and the SEATT partnership were formed in October 2014 to train people to test beaches in Southeast Alaska. In April 2015, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska opened a regional lab on Katlian Street, so samples could be tested in Sitka without having to be sent to the Lower 48, which delayed results. By testing for harmful algal blooms, SEATOR and the SEATT partnership hope to be able to provide information so people can make informed choices whether or not to harvest or eat shellfish.

Harmful algal blooms, such as paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), typically have not been monitored in Southeast Alaska for subsistence and recreational harvesters of clams, mussels, oysters, cockles, and other bivalves (commercial harvests are tested). Even though many people in Southeast Alaska love to harvest shellfish, eating it comes with some risks. There have been several PSP outbreaks in recent years that sent people to the hospital, and in 2010 two deaths were attributed to PSP and other HABs, such as Alexandrium, Pseudo-nitzchia and Dinophysis.

To learn more about harmful algal blooms and how they can raise the risk for PSP and ASP (amnesic shellfish poisoning, which also can be fatal), go to SEATOR’s resources page. If you have shellfish you recently harvested and want to test it, click this link to learn what you need to do to have it tested by STAERL. Please contact STAERL at 747-7395 with any additional questions.

• June 10, 2016, press release about PSP advisory for Southeast Alaska

Harmful algal bloom warning listed for shellfish harvested at Sitka, Craig, Klawock and Petersburg

Clam diggers work the beach at Starrigavan in this file photo. The Sitka Tribe of Alaska is warning Sitkans against harvesting clams in the area due to a harmful algae detected Monday, June 8, 2015. (Daily Sitka Sentinel file photo by James Poulson)

Clam diggers work the beach at Starrigavan in this file photo. The Sitka Tribe of Alaska is warning Sitkans against harvesting clams in the area due to a harmful algae detected Tuesday, May 25, 2016. (Daily Sitka Sentinel file photo by James Poulson)

Seator-Logo-Best-June-30-2015-7pm-215x215The SouthEast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research (SEATOR) project coordinated by the Sitka Tribe of Alaska on Wednesday, May 26, issued a harmful algal bloom warning for shellfish harvested in four Southeast Alaska communities. The warning is for shellfish harvested on Starrigavan Beach in Sitka, Graveyard Beach in Craig, the Klawock Boat Launch, and Sandy Beach in Petersburg.

(Editor’s Note: On Thursday, June 2, SEATOR and the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences in Juneau announced a similar shellfish advisory for shellfish harvested on June 1 from several beaches in the Juneau area — Auke Bay, Point Louisa/Auke Rec, Amalga Harbor and Eagle Beach. For more information on Juneau, contact Elizabeth Tobin at 1-907-796- 5455 or edtobin@alaska.edu or Chris Whitehead of SEATOR at chris.whitehead@sitkatribe-nsn.gov. On June 3, SEATOR added Cloud 9 Beach in Craig to the list of beaches affected by the shellfish advisory.)

“The Sitka Tribe of Alaska Environmental Research Lab (STAERL) has been collecting shellfish samples to test for biotoxins, specifically paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP),” STAERL announced in a press release. “Recent samples on May 25, 2016, confirm that clams at the following beaches have elevated levels of toxins above the FDA regulatory limit of 80µg/100g and should not be harvested at this time.”

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

SEATOR, the Southeast Alaska Tribal Toxins (SEATT) partnership, and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska have been monitoring saxitoxin on Starrigavan Beach in Sitka and other beaches around Southeast Alaska since late 2014. Saxitoxin is produced by the phytoplankton Alexandrium and can get highly concentrated in shellfish, leading to paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), which can be fatal.

SEATOR posts updates and information to its website at seator.org/data, which can help provide Southeast Alaska residents with reliable information so they can choose whether or not to harvest shellfish. On May 6, SEATOR announced an advisory for shellfish harvest on Starrigavan Beach in Sitka, when it found Alexandrium in its weekly phytoplankton samples and high levels of saxitoxin in butter clams, littleneck clams, and blue mussels. Because of the high levels, SEATOR advised Sitka residents not to harvest shellfish at the time.

Since most beaches in Alaska aren’t tested for harmful algal blooms, SEATOR and the SEATT partnership were formed in October 2014 to train people to test beaches in Southeast Alaska. In April 2015, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska opened a regional lab on Katlian Street, so samples could be tested in Sitka without having to be sent to the Lower 48, which delayed results. By testing for harmful algal blooms, SEATOR and the SEATT partnership hope to be able to provide information so people can make informed choices whether or not to harvest or eat shellfish.

Harmful algal blooms, such as paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), typically have not been monitored in Southeast Alaska for subsistence and recreational harvesters of clams, mussels, oysters, cockles, and other bivalves (commercial harvests are tested). Even though many people in Southeast Alaska love to harvest shellfish, eating it comes with some risks. There have been several PSP outbreaks in recent years that sent people to the hospital, and in 2010 two deaths were attributed to PSP and other HABs, such as Alexandrium, Pseudo-nitzchia and Dinophysis.

To learn more about harmful algal blooms and how they can raise the risk for PSP and ASP (amnesic shellfish poisoning, which also can be fatal), go to SEATOR’s resources page. If you have shellfish you recently harvested and want to test it, click this link to learn what you need to do to have it tested by STAERL.

• Press release about shellfish advisory, May 26, 2016

• Joint SEATOR/UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Studies press release about Juneau shellfish advisory, June 2, 2016

• June 3, 2016, SEATOR press release updating the list of affected beaches

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers Certified Food Protection Manager class by videoconference March 3 in Sitka

CFPM flyer 3-3-16-b

Wednesday, Feb. 17, is the registration deadline for a certified food protection manager workshop being taught on Thursday, March 3, by University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. This is an all-day statewide class that will be offered by videoconferencing to Fairbanks, Palmer, Juneau, Petersburg, Sitka, Craig, Angoon, Klukwan, and Tenakee.

A certified food protection manager (CFPM) is responsible for monitoring and managing all food establishment operations to ensure that the facility is operating in compliance with food establishment regulations.

A CFPM is knowledgeable about food safety practices and uses this knowledge to provide consumers with safe food, protect public health and prevent food-borne illnesses. Alaska regulations require food establishments to have at least one CFPM on staff.

This course takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with a half-hour lunch), and participants will take a computer-based exam at the end of the class. The reason the deadline is two weeks before the class is to guarantee course materials reach all the students in time for the class. The cost is $200, and the course will be taught by Julie Cascio of Palmer. Students can register here.

The Sitka videoconference for the class will take place in Room 110 at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus. To learn more, contact Jasmine Shaw at the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440, or contact Kathy McDougall at (907) 474-2420 (Fairbanks number) or kmmcdougall@alaska.edu. Note, this class is taught in English but textbooks are available in Korean, Chinese and Spanish, just contact Kathy at least three weeks before the class.

Also, the ServSafe book ($60) and certification exam ($75) now are available online, if people want to order the book and study independently without taking the class. Just go to this website and purchase the book and exam items.

• Southeast Alaska Commercial Growers Conference to take place Feb. 27-March 1 in Petersburg

FarragutFarmFields

Bo Varsano and Marja Smets of Farragut Farm in Petersburg will host the inaugural Southeast Alaska Commercial Growers Conference from Feb. 27 through March 1 in Petersburg. This conference is made possible by the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Petersburg Economic Development Council.

FarragutFarmProduceStandatIngas“The Southeast Alaska Commercial Growers Conference is an opportunity for the commercial vegetable and flower producers of Southeast Alaska to get together and exchange ideas and techniques, with the purpose of improving and expanding local agricultural production,” Bo Varsano said. “Commercial agriculture in Southeast Alaska is still minimal, but is rapidly expanding with new growers starting up every year. While there are many uniquely specific challenges to growing in our region, few fully developed and publicized strategies currently exist for the new grower to follow. In light of this, gathering with other growers to share our experiences and ideas may be the best way to aid the growing agricultural movement in Southeast Alaska.”

FarragutFarmMarjaInGreenhouseIt’s not too late to sign up to participate, so please take a look and let us know if you have any questions or if you are interested in joining the fun. If the travel and lodging costs are dissuading you from participating, please remember that we can arrange a home-stay for anyone (contact us by Jan. 18 to arrange home-stays) and we still have one travel stipend ($200) to hand out to someone in need.

A few things to consider:

  • This conference is open to commercial farmers, aspiring farmers, as well as anyone in the general public who is interested in the local agriculture industry.
  • Participants are responsible for their own breakfasts and lunches.
  • Friday’s dinner will be prepared by KFSK, our local radio station. This meal is a fundraising event for the station, and a suggested donation will be requested.
  • Saturday’s dinner will be a communal dinner, jointly prepared for and shared by all conference participants at the venue.
  • There is no fee to attend, however, we will be asking for a minimal donation from each participant to cover the cost of venue rental and Saturday evening’s dinner.

Several regional farmers and industry specialists have volunteered to give presentations relevant to the issues and challenges faced by Southeast Alaska growers.  The following topics will be addressed:

We will begin the conference with a brief “show and tell” session. All conference participants will be asked to give a short (under 10 minutes) introduction including a description of their farm, their farming aspirations, or their involvement in the farming industry.

We especially encourage sharing photos of your operation. If you choose to do so, please bring those photos on a memory stick in JPEG format (in the largest original format). That is the ONLY photo format that we can guarantee will work with our computer.

We hope to see you all in February, and again, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions. The best way to reach us is by email, at farragutfarm@gmail.com.

Please print up the attached documents (which include a conference agenda and a map of Petersburg showing the locations for the conference) and bring them with you when you come.

• 2015 Southeast Alaska Commercial Growers Conference Agenda

• Map of Petersburg

• Buying local food during a Southeast Alaska summer

Sitka Local Foods Network Board Vice President Cathy Lieser distributes "Alaska Grown" bumper stickers during the July Fourth parade in Sitka (Photo by Heike Hüttenkofer)

Sitka Local Foods Network Board Vice President Cathy Lieser distributes “Alaska Grown” bumper stickers during the July Fourth parade in Sitka (Photo by Heike Hüttenkofer)

By CATHY LIESER
Sitka Local Foods Network Board Vice President

I am cooking on a boat throughout Southeast Alaska this summer, so on May 5, I planted seeds in my garden, covered it with bird netting and wished it well until my return. The text from my friend read, “the weeds are winning,” luckily I have an herb garden on the boat.

I have been on the hunt for local food in the towns where we provision. It was a late spring, so early on I watched plots greening up and took mental notes. There was kale and rhubarb in Tenakee, with one grower who sells on Friday — The Party Time Bakery — which uses local produce for delicious meals. We bought a rhubarb-berry pie fresh out of the oven and took it back to the boat.

In Juneau, we stocked up at Pinkies Fish Market where the mission is to create a local food economy by sourcing local seafood and other farm fresh items. I toured the Jensen-Olson Arboretum (click here for Facebook page) with Merrill Jensen while he shared about their process toward having a certified virus-free Tlingít potato. The Wild Oven sourdough bakery found me sampling chewy and flavorful loaves that I found out got better with age. At the Second Saturday Market, I bought greenhouse-fresh basil picked that morning.

I barely missed the first Sitka Farmers Market on July 6, but did raid my garden for spinach, kale, lettuce, corn salad and miner’s lettuce. I thank those who watered for me during the hot month of June. Our next boat destination was Petersburg, where I finally arrived on a day where two growers were selling.

The Garden, which participates in the Alaska Grown program, is an abundant oasis of organic produce in the middle of town. Tonna Parker has turned a family lot into a production powerhouse using French intensive methods. For the last four years she has sold direct to the community, just stop by on a Tuesday or Saturday to see what she has available. I bought cucumbers and snap peas that did not make it home, I snacked while Tonna gave me a tour. She has beautiful raised beds, chickens, ducks and compact greenhouses where she is able to grow an astounding variety. Winter squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, bok choi, kale, corn salad, arugula, carrots, beans, peas, berries, eggs, the abundance went on and on.

I was incredibly inspired by her approach toward finding varieties that thrive in her micro climate, ones that are tough and aggressive growers. She trials open-pollinated varieties and saves her own seed for many of her plantings. Freely sharing her knowledge, Tonna said she would happily work herself out of a job, she just wants folks to grow local and reap the benefits.

Farragut Farm makes the trip into Petersburg by boat to sell direct twice a month. Marja Smets and Bo Varsano had beautiful, tender and sweet produce for sale. Radishes nearly the size of golf balls, collards, kale, chard, green onions, carrots, garlic scapes, edible flowers, pea shoots, peas, Napa cabbage, turnips, beets, and lettuce. Wow, to have root crops and full-sized heads of Romaine lettuce and cabbage this early on is a testament to dedicated growing. I had heard that Farragut sells to charter boats and indeed I can place an order via email to be picked up one hour on either side of the high tide in Farragut Bay. They will row and deliver to the boat.

If you love fresh flowers, Craig Olson and Deb Hurley of the Flower Farm run a flower CSA.  For a $100 subscription they deliver six bouquets a summer.  Stunning dahlia, snapdragon, campanula, linaria, veronica, delphinum, and ageratum to name a few.  They grow in three hoophouses and three heated greenhouses that were funded with a $20,000 grant from the Petersburg Development Fund. Planting starts on Jan. 9, and 60 percent of their sales are in veggie and flower bedding plants.

Inga’s Galley (click here for Facebook page) is the Petersburg reinvention of Sitka’s late-but-beloved Two Chicks on a Kabob Stick food cart. Amyee Peeler (one of the Two Chicks from Sitka) sources local produce whenever she can, and of course all of the seafood is local.

Unfortunately, the The Market In Petersburg was not happening on the Friday while I was in town, but I hope to hit it on July 19.

I’ll keep looking over the next two months wherever we dock, I am heartened to see folks committed to growing and sourcing the best food in Southeast. If you know of anyone that I’ve missed leave me a note at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com (put “Attention Cathy” in the subject line).

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