Vol. 34, No. 3
At the end of a two year planning process, residents and leaders of Shaktoolik, Alaska, have decided that the community will stay put and “defend in place,” in response to threats of erosion and flooding due to climate change. But community residents will not sit idle. They have adopted several initiatives to protect human life, buildings, and infrastructure, including constructing a vegetated berm, a mound to serve as a place of refuge, and a multipurpose building that could be used as shelter during a storm. They will consider moving two oil tank farms, and will update their hazard mitigation plan.
Shaktoolik residents have already been through at least one relocation—they moved the village in 1975 because of erosion and flooding at the old site about a mile south of the current site. Now the northwestern Alaska community of 250 people sits near the end of a sand spit bordered by the Tagoomenik River and Norton Sound. Economically they are doing well, with traditional subsistence activities and earnings from commercial fishing and local jobs with the school, tribe, city, and Shaktoolik Native Corporation.
Erosion is threatening the community, and models by the US Army Corps of Engineers show that severe storms could imperil life and do considerable damage. The later freeze-up of Norton Sound has delayed the buildup of shore ice each fall, which historically has been a buffer for the village. Fall storms have caused damage in recent years, and potentially destructive driftwood was pushed to within a few feet of buildings.
The community decisions on the adaptation plan are a result of the project “Shaktoolik, Alaska: Climate Change Adaptation for an At-Risk Community,” led by Marine Advisory agent Terry Johnson and Glenn Gray Associates, and funded by NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research through National Sea Grant.
The community established a planning committee representing the City of Shaktoolik, Native Village of Shaktoolik, and Shaktoolik Native Corporation. Next the project team conducted meetings with experts, developed alternatives to protect against erosion and flooding, and recommended funding sources. They also reached out to other coastal communities at risk because of climate change.
At committee meetings members discussed options, from relocation to an evacuation road, to fortifying the shoreline and flood-proofing homes. Most options were determined to be technically unproven in that environment, or too expensive.
The Sea Grant project has ended, but the resident Shaktoolik planning committee will continue its work—seeking funds for their defense efforts and new studies, monitoring for hazards, and developing guidelines for protecting structures from storms. Some committee members acknowledge that the village site probably won’t work for the long term, but it may be decades before resources become available for relocation. Furthermore, residents like where they live and they don’t want to move.
Well over a thousand Alaska high school students have gone through arduous preparation for the Alaska competition of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, since it began in 1998. That’s a lot of young people who have learned valuable teamwork skills and useful facts about marine science. The Alaska competition includes a quiz bowl, a research paper, and an oral presentation.
The 2014 Alaska competition—the Tsunami Bowl—was held in Seward last month. The Juneau-Douglas Caballers won first place among 18 teams, and they will go to Seattle in early May to compete with 24 other teams in the national bowl. Second place went to the Juneau-Douglas Third Whale and third place to the Kodiak Elusive Jellyfish.
The Kodiak team conducted their research project, “Jellyfish Apocalypse: Problems, Causes, and Opportunities,” in part under the mentorship of Marine Advisory seafood specialist Alex Oliveira. At the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center pilot plant, Oliveira and the team produced edible products from moon jellyfish supplied by the students. They used the traditional Asian salting method and an alternative lightly salted freeze-drying technique.
“We had a ton of fun and students vacuum packaged the products and brought them as demo tools for their oral project presentation,” said Oliveira.
The Elusive Jellyfish got first place for their research project and oral presentation, winning $500 in classroom supplies from Alaska Sea Grant. And team member Hannah Christian earned a $5,000 scholarship from Icicle Seafoods. Marine Advisory agent Julie Matweyou and marine mammal specialist Bree Witteveen helped the Kodiak team with quiz practice and their oral presentation.
Marine Advisory agent Sunny Rice co-coached the Petersburg science bowl team—the Sea Masons—who won fourth place overall. Alaska Sea Grant director Paula Cullenberg was on hand in Seward to judge the presentations.
The UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences is one of several cosponsors of the Tsunami Bowl. Visit the Alaska Ocean Sciences Bowl Alaska Region website for more information and complete results.
American Marine Ingredients has released a new diet supplement product, 54°North Omega-3 with Vitamin D3. The oil in the capsules is derived from Alaska pollock livers, through a process created by Marine Advisory Program seafood specialist Alex Oliveira.
Funded by a grant from the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center, Oliveira worked out a molecular distillation process to purify pollock oil for nutraceutical use. Molecular distillation (also called short path distillation) differs substantially from traditional processing used to purify fish oil, in that it does not require use of chemicals and generates virtually no processing waste.
In the recent past American Seafoods mainly used pollock oil for biofuel in boilers onboard their vessels. But the boilers did not consume all the oil. With the potential availability of excess pollock oil, the industry looked to producing oil for human consumption.
“The major leap is to have Alaska pollock oil break into the nutraceutical market, which is still expanding yearly, and the shift in application for pollock oils," said Oliveira. Pollock is by far the highest volume fishery in Alaska, and using pollock livers to produce a high purity nutraceutical makes environmental sense and increases the value of the fishery.
A few years ago Oliveira’s presentations on the pollock oil project at international conferences piqued the interest of the fish oil industry. The New Zealand government sent Dr. Matthew Miller to her lab at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, where she helped him purify New Zealand hoki oil. The process was successful for hoki, and also for Pacific cod liver oils through a project funded by Alaskan Leader Fisheries and Aleutian Spray Fisheries. Oliveira and Miller have submitted a manuscript on the pollock and hoki oil projects to the journal Nutrients, special issue Recent Advances in Omega-3: Health Benefits, Sources, Products and Bioavailability.
Richard Draves, American Seafoods vice president of product development, reports that 54°North Omega-3 is selling well and they are making a good profit. Oliveira’s project was the focus of his keynote presentation at the Pacific Fisheries Technologists Conference last month in Monterey, California.
American Seafoods is looking for more ways to add value via pollock co-products. One example is skins and their potential use in dog treats, a research project Oliveira just received funds for from PCCRC. The pet treat market is growing fast as pet owners become more aware of pet nutrition and look for healthier product alternatives. Fish protein and fish oils are desirable ingredients, looking beyond corn and soybean meal or beef and pork byproducts.