Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ocean Watch arrives in Nome, Alaska

Again, lots of catch up but I am keeping a few notes daily and posting when we arrive.
Sitting at the Nugget Inn where OW has a room for working and off boat water usage. No water on our dockspace. Cleaned up the boat this AM. The local gold dredgers are more busy than ever. Gold rush times again. Now on to work....

Saturday, June 27 Bering Sea
0830 lazy morning departure from Dutch Harbor after quite a sleep by the crew; guess we all needed it. Dutch was its usual blend of locals, native peoples and company workers. The single entity is UniSea, a huge fishing top to bottom conglomerate who literally owns everything in Dutch from the bar and hospital to the police station. Mostly foreign workers from Asia Pacific rim. We learned that the fishery out here is changing. Fishing boats are having to venture farther away and Russia is effecting Dutch with their Barents Sea operations and transplanting species into that realm. Calm now in the Bering. Heading to Nome. Lots of birds and an unknown whale today with lots of scars. Now 100 nm offshore.

Sunday, June 28 Bering Sea
Great sailing day in the Bering Sea. Roaring along efficiently with the constant hum which begins at about 8 knots. Knocking off miles.

Monday, June 29 Bering Sea, Nunivak Is.
Just off Cape Vancouver near old friend Nunivak Island where Cloud Nine stopped going south in the lee of a big southern blow. Now Ocean Watch has stopped for a different purpose in calm, shallow waters (under 40') to do some science. Taking some jellyfish samples and doing some underwater accoustics with the hydrophone. Perfect opportunity to do some video interviews also.

Oh yes, and we identified the whale. It is a somewhat rare sighting of a Baird's Beaked whale. They are not seen often but are here in these waters of the Alaskan Gulf, Bering Sea and Northern Pacific waters.

We now are closing in on 3000 miles of sailing by Nome. What have we learned thus far? Ocean Watch has spent this time in the Pacific Northwest, Canadian/Alaskan Inside Passages, Gulf of AK, Aleutians and now Bering Sea/Norton Sound. The common theme in all is fisheries. The state of these fisheries is a mixed bag at best.

The native fisheries of Alert Bay are very strained and younger people have lost interest in fishing as a livelihood, but the sea remains alive in their culture. Upland issues in forests (over-logging, etc), like the Tongass, for example, lead to numerous problems downstream for the fisheries, as does commercial development. Farmed fish are a major competitor, but also pose a health/food safety risk as do all confined animal farming operations. Over-fishing and illegal fishing continue to plague the industry. Cruise ships have a huge impact on local communities/cultures and tax the infrastructure. A growing human population worldwide adds to the stresses already on the fisheries.

Climate change and ocean acidification are extremely complex additions to the equation. We sailed through an area of the Gulf of Alaska which is a "carbon sink" with a lower pH and is more acidic. The oceans and seas are absorbing CO2 at an alarming rate, an unsustainable one. The warming trend associated with a changing climate attracts invasive species and forces fisherman into more remote areas using more fuel in the process. Alaskan Polluck are heading north to cooler waters for instance.

Alaskans are fortunate to have had some good leadership but the continued popularity of seafood in growing population centers worldwide is going to add tremendous stress on an already stressed system. These are a few of the things which I, and we, on Ocean Watch are trying to learn more about and share as we can.

Tuesday, June 30th Norton Sound, Alaska
Last leg in. Under 100 miles. Into Nome tonight. Fantastic passage. Translated this means quiet, safe, and free of big moments. So different than 2 years ago. Looking forward to our open house and presentations in Nome on July 2nd.

Wednesday, July 1 Nome, Alaska
Arrived at dock 0030 Hrs. Safe and dry. Ready for our Nome visit.

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