Sitka Seafood Festival returns Aug. 10-19 after spending a year in hiatus

After spending a year in hiatus, the Sitka Seafood Festival returns Aug. 10-19 with a wide variety of events as Sitka celebrates its local seafood culture.

“Southeast Alaska is an amazing place, and the Sitka Seafood Festival is going to be a great opportunity to bring our community together to celebrate it,” Sitka Seafood Festival coordinator Emma Edson said. “There are a lot of great minds coming together to make it happen. It’ll be a lot of fun, and it’s all for a good cause.”

The Sitka Seafood Festival began in 2009 through the work of volunteers, and became its own nonprofit in 2012. But in 2016, organizers decided they needed to take a break.

The rekindled Sitka Seafood Festival now is sponsored by the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust and the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. The proceeds from the festival will benefit the Young Fishermen’s Initiative, which helps young Alaskans get into the fishing industry with financing for permits and boats, deck hand apprenticeships, and policy programs.

“Central to the mission of the Sitka Seafood Festival (SSF), as well as the mission of Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, is the belief that Alaska needs a vibrant and sustainable fishing industry supporting economically empowered and self-sufficient Alaska communities,” said Willow Moore, ASFT’s executive director. “Also, no one knows good seafood (and where to find it) like Alaskans. The Sitka Seafood Festival celebrates the fishing culture and heritage that local economies (and plates and palates) depend on, and the unique ecosystems of Southeast Alaska that sustain our local fish and families as they grow.”

In addition to the two host organizations, there are several partner groups hosting activities, such as ArtChange Inc., the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society, Sitka Film Society, Sheldon Jackson Museum, Sitka Local Foods Network, the Sitka Kitch, and Sitka Tribe of Alaska.

The main festival day is Saturday, Aug. 12, when there are vendor and food booths plus a variety of fun and games events at Crescent Harbor Shelter. Knot-tying games open the event at 9 a.m., followed by kids games at 10 a.m., the vendor market from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., older kids games from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a dock walk from noon to 1 p.m., tote races at 1 p.m., and the wild fishermen’s triathlon (which includes fish tote races and other obstacles) at 3 p.m.

Other highlights from this year’s event schedule include a pre-festival screening of the movie “Jaws” on Aug. 6 at the Coliseum Theater; Sitka Tells Tales hosting “Wet Feet: Stories On, In, Under, or Of the Sea” on Aug. 10 at the Beak Restaurant; seafood trivia on Aug. 11 at the Mean Queen; a lecture by Iñupiaq mask carver Erin Katherine Gingrich on Aug. 12 at the Sheldon Jackson Museum; a screening of the film “The Salmon Forest” on Aug. 14 at the Mean Queen; a class on filleting salmon on Aug. 15 at the Sitka Kitch; a class on canning salmon on Aug. 16 at the Sitka Kitch; a film screening of an ocean and fisheries documentary TBA on Aug. 17 at the Coliseum Theater; a “Coming to America: Invasive Species, Ocean Rafting, and Japanese Tsunami Marine Debris” lecture on Aug. a8 at the Sitka Sound Science Center; a walk about the docks on Aug. 19; an ocean treasures family day Aug. 19 at the Japonski Island Boat House; and a fish skin sewing class taught by Joel Isaak from Aug. 22-30 at the Sheldon Jackson Museum.

Don’t forget the Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting a Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 12 at the ANB Founders Hall, and another one at the same time on Aug. 19. So make time to attend both events.

The 2017 Sitka Seafood Festival grand finale will come with the Young Fishermen’s Expo and Season’s End Banquet, taking place in early November at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

For more information about the Sitka Seafood Festival, go to http://www.sitkaseafoodfestival.com, or call 747-3400.

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.

UAS Sitka Campus offers ‘Flora of Southeast Alaska’ course as a hybrid

Salmonberries await picking near the entrance to Sitka National Historical Park

Salmonberries await picking near the entrance to Sitka National Historical Park

Flora of Southeastern Alaska, a biology class taught by University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus associate professor Kitty LaBounty, is back for its third year.

flora-course-update-smThe DNA of most traditional botany classes is to gather students around a table of samples and look at them in a face-to-face classroom setting. By offering Flora of Southeast Alaska as both a hybrid local and distance-delivery (eLearning) class, students from anywhere can get up to speed on how to identify the common native trees, shrubs and herbs of southeast and south central Alaska. Local students can participate in the lectures on campus, while students across Alaska can see the imagery online and hear the lectures either live or via digital recording.

Flora of Southeast Alaska is a one-credit, 11-week workshop. The focus will be on identification of common species and attaining an understanding of their place in the ecosystem of Southeast Alaska. Students will discover how these plants interact with other plants and animals, and how humans use these plants for food, fuel, medicine, or simply enjoyment.

In addition to illustrated weekly lectures, there will be written exercises and “check for understanding” activities. The class is available to any student without prerequisites. It does not count as credit toward a biology major at UAS.

Professor LaBounty brings her lifelong passion as a gardener and scientist to this topic, along with more than 25 years experience working on plant identification for state, federal and nonprofit agencies in Alaska.

The class will meet from 6-7 p.m. on Thursdays from Feb. 16 to May 4 — with time off for spring break. The cost is $187 for local students and $227 for eLearning (distance) students.

For more information, contact Kitty LaBounty at UAS Sitka Campus. 747-9432. To register, call 747-7700. or toll-free, 800-478-6653.

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

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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.

Sitka Conservation Society to host its annual Wild Foods Potluck on Sunday, Nov. 13

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The Sitka Conservation Society will host its annual Wild Foods Potluck from 5-7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Please bring a dish featuring ingredients that were fished, foraged, hunted, or cultivated in Southeast Alaska. Prizes will be awarded for first place in the following categories — Best Dish, Best Dessert, and Most Creative.

The event will highlight subsistence stories and the work performed by the Sitka Conservation Society over the last year. SCS members can pick up their 2017 SCS Calendars at the potluck.

The potluck is open to the entire community, especially SCS members, friends, family, and anyone else interested in learning about the Sitka Conservation Society. Come celebrate Alaska’s wild food bounty with your friends and neighbors.

Interested in volunteering at the potluck or want more information? Contact the Sitka Conservation Society at info@sitkawild.org or call 747-7509.

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

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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.

Sitka Spruce Tips-Alaska Way of Life 4-H club to host Wild Edibles Series this fall

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The Sitka Spruce Tips-Alaska Way of Life 4-H Club will begin a six-week Wild Edible Series  starting on Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Kids will get outside and explore the bounty of wild edibles in Southeast Alaska. Activities include picking berries, identifying mushrooms, hiking through the muskeg, smoking salmon, and making jam and fruit leather. Get ready to taste the Tongass.

4-H members ages 5-8 will meet from 3:30-5 p.m. on Wednesdays and ages 9 and older will meet from 3:30-5 p.m. on Thursdays (the location will be revealed once you have registered). The registration fee is $20 and scholarships are available. Please register by Sept. 2.

For more information, email Julia Tawney at julia@sitkawild.org or call the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509.