PBS NewsHour Monday August 10,2020

A must watch segment on Covid-19 and Alaska.  Part of this short segment features the Bristol Bay fishery and our local neighbors of Bristol Bay Borough.

 

Click here.  Alaska's geography delayed virus --- but hasn't prevented it

National Park Service News Release

Release Date: August 6, 2020
Contact: Katmai National Park Headquarters, 907-246-3305

Katmai National Park and Preserve begins to increase access to the Brooks Camp Developed Area

King Salmon, AK – Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Katmai National Park and Preserve (Katmai NP&P) is increasing access and services to the Brooks Camp Developed Area (BCDA). The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis.

Beginning August 8, 2020, Katmai NP&P will reopen access to the Brooks Camp Developed Area for day-use visitation. All front and backcountry areas beyond the Brooks Camp Developed Area continue to be available. Additional details and current park conditions are posted on the park’s website.

Katmai NP&P Superintendent Mark Sturm said, “This year, due to COVID-19, we just need to give others plenty of space. I am asking everyone to please help keep the Brooks Camp Developed Area open for visitation by staying at least six feet apart from other people, and 50 yards away from bears, whenever possible. I also ask for your cooperation with following our temporarily reduced capacities in buildings and on viewing platforms, wearing a face covering, and washing your hands or using hand sanitizer often. Finally, please stay home if you are feeling ill. Katmai will be glad to welcome you when you are feeling better.”

The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continues to be paramount. At Katmai NP&P, our operational approach continues to be centered on examining each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance, and they will be regularly monitored. We continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public areas and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers.

A safe and enjoyable park experience begins at home. The NPS encourages visitors to plan their visit by checking the park’s website and social media for current conditions and travel tips. The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We ask the public to be our partner in recreating responsibly, by following CDC and state and local guidance, social distancing, and wearing a face covering when social distance cannot be maintained.

Coronavirus infects rangers in Katmai

Posted here July 29, 2020

The coronavirus has reached an isolated part of an already remote national park in Alaska.  https://in.mashable.com/science/15925/coronavirus-infects-bear-cam-rangers-in-remote-alaska

On Sunday evening, Katmai National Park and Preserve — home to the livestreamed bear cams — announced "multiple cases" of COVID-19 at Brooks Camp, the place where visitors come each summer and fall to see the park's famous brown bears and migrating salmon. The infections, which forced a temporary shutdown of the camp (but not the live cams), underscore how easy it is for this new coronavirus to spread between people anywhere, largely through airborne transmission.

"The primary transmission of COVID-19 is from person-to-person through respiratory droplets," says the CDC, who notes transmission can happen from "those with mild symptoms or those who do not feel ill."

Naomi Boak, the media ranger at Katmai National Park and Preserve, wrote an online message Sunday that the park began weekly testing for its staff last week, whose rangers are exposed to visitors who aren't required to wear masks. Additionally, staff like Boak quarantined for two weeks near park headquarters before flying out to Brooks Camp.

"But this virus is sneaky and it came to us despite best efforts," Boak wrote.

"I am one of those who tested positive," she said.

Additional information from Alaska Daily News.

News Release Date: July 26, 2020

Contact: Katmai National Park Headquarters, 907-246-3305

King Salmon, AK – Katmai National Park and Preserve (Katmai NP&P) announced today the immediate closure of the Brooks Camp Developed Area (BCDA) to all visitors until further notice. The closure is in response to a request from local health officials after multiple positive cases of COVID-19 having been detected in the park’s residential community. The park is acting according to a COVID-19 operations plan developed alongside public health professionals.

Effective July 27, 2020 at 12:00 AM AKDT, only residents and other authorized persons will be allowed in this area through August 10. The National Park Service will work with public health officials to reassess conditions and update the access status of BCDA then. The health and safety of employees, residents, volunteers, partners, and neighboring communities as well as park visitors, at Katmai National Park and Preserve is the Service's number one priority. The NPS is working servicewide with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic.

 The park will work towards reopening the BCDA to the public as soon as possible. Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted on our website and social media channels. Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.

Areas beyond the BCDA within Katmai NP&P remain fully accessible to the public in accordance with the latest federal, state, and local health guidance. Law Enforcement and first responder services remain accessible.

National Park Service News Release

Release Date: July 20, 2020
Contact: Katmai National Park Headquarters, 907-246-3305

Brooks Lodge expected to open for overnight accommodations starting August 10, 2020

King Salmon, AK – Katmai National Park and Preserve (Katmai NP&P) announced today that Brooks Lodge plans to expand guest services to include overnight accommodations starting August 10, 2020. The park’s concessionaire, Katmailand, has worked closely with the NPS to position itself for this possibility by adhering closely to State of Alaska health mandates. More specifically, the lodge has: adjusted down the number of guests that can be supported this season; expanded social distancing practices; increased cleaning and disinfecting services; and modified food services. These important mitigation measures, which have been fully developed and adopted, make it possible to open Brooks Lodge to overnight accommodations this season despite recent increases in COVID-19 cases having been documented in several of the park’s gateway communities.

 

 

National Park Service News Release

Release Date: July 17, 2020
Contact: Katmai National Park Headquarters, 907-246-3305

Brooks Camp Campground to Remain Closed to Overnight Use for the Season

King Salmon, AK – In response to Alaska State Mandate 18 and to support the nation’s effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Brooks Camp campground in Katmai National Park and Preserve (Katmai NP&P) will remain closed to overnight camping for the 2020 season. Recently, an increase in COVID-19 cases has been documented in several of the park’s gateway communities and health officials have asked the park to close the campground out of concern for surrounding remote Alaska communities. The park is taking this action due to health and safety concerns, as well as other operational considerations.

The Brooks Camp Developed Area (BCDA) continues to be open for day-use. The Brooks Camp Visitor Center is open daily from 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM. Visitors should expect modified operations in the area including reduced numbers in buildings, viewing platforms, and other gathering areas to facilitate appropriate social distancing. Visitors to the BCDA are asked to follow best practices including wearing a mask or other face covering, washing hands often, maintaining at least 6 feet from other visitors and park staff. Visitors are cautioned to stay home if not feeling well.

Areas immediately outside of the BCDA within Katmai NP&P remain fully accessible to the public, including for overnight camping, in accordance with the latest federal, state, and local healthy guidance. Law Enforcement and first responder services remain accessible.

 

 

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It's Bear Cam Time!       The King 👑 Returns

Wake up! The moment you've been waiting for is here: the Katmai Bear Cams are LIVE. Join us to celebrate the beginning of a much-needed summer 2020 bear season.

The long-awaited return of 480 Otis is a momentous event for all Bear Cam viewers, and our Otis sighting came earlier this season! This morning 480 was spotted moseying into the jacuzzi, giving us a clear view of his trademark floppy ear.

Join us on the Bear Cams to celebrate the return of the oldest known male bear at Brooks Falls. It's going to be a great summer!

Happy Bear-Watching,

Your extended family at explore.org

NEVER STOP LEARNING

 

News from Katmai National Park and Preserve May 28

Katmai Announces Earliest Possible Dates for Opening of Brooks Camp Developed Area Park Expects to Offer Reduced Services Only

King Salmon, AK – Katmai National Park and Preserve (Katmai NP&P) continues to support efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) while also supporting Alaska’s efforts to responsibly reopen closed areas when possible.

The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis. The latest Alaska State Mandate, COVID-19 Health Mandate 18, prohibits non-essential travel to communities that are off the road system and that are not served by the Alaska Marine Highway System. The Brooks Camp Developed Area (BCDA), within Katmai NP&P, qualifies as such an area and therefore is currently subject to resulting restrictions on, non-critical, tourism-based travel.

The current closure of the BCDA remains in effect until July 1st. When possible, a return to reduced operations within the BCDA will be phased and services will be limited. The park wishes to share the following information to address growing interest about when and what visitor services might be available this year. The following earliest possible opening dates for BCDA operations are contingent upon the lifting of the aforementioned travel restrictions.

Brooks Camp Developed Area Operation Earliest Possible Opening Date as of May 26, 2020
  • Explore.org Bear Camera Activation
Latter half of June 2020
  • Visitor Center Info/Bear Orientation
July 1, 2020
  • Day Use Visitation
July 1, 2020
  • Limited Dining Services
July 1, 2020
  • Overnight Lodge Guests
July 23, 2020
  • Overnight Camping
July 23, 2020
  • Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes Drop Off/Pick Up Service
July 23, 2020
  • Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes Tour
Cancelled for Season

Assuming that doing so would be consistent with COVID-19 related federal, state and local travel guidance that exists at the time, the park hopes to partially reopen Brooks Camp to day-use-visitation starting July 1; however, overnight accommodations both at the Brooks Camp Lodge and campground will remain closed at least until July 23. If Brooks Camp overnight accommodations become possible this season, the park will formally announce the opening date via a separate press release with at least three weeks anticipation.

Katmai NP&P Superintendent Mark Sturm said “We are hopeful that the existing Covid-19 prevention measures might continue to be successful locally so that tourism travel restrictions might be lifted at some point. In anticipation of this, the park is currently making preparations to accommodate visitors later this season. In the meantime, we understand that folks have a need to know what is and isn’t possible, so that they in turn can update their own plans; therefore, we are sharing what we can regarding Brooks Camp operations this year. I want folks to know that we have been working closely with Katmailand, the park’s concessioner, to make related decisions jointly. Both the park and Katmailand are committed to responsibly reopening everything possible at Brooks Camp for the remainder of the 2020 season.”

For those who do still hope to visit Katmai this year you should know that park staff are following new procedures informed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to minimize contact between and among visitors, fellow staff and adjoining local communities. In keeping with CDC, as well as State and Local guidelines, all visitors who eventually are able to come to Brooks Camp this year will be asked to practice social distancing and to wear face coverings when in proximity to others not of the same household.

Areas outside of the BCDA within Katmai NP&P remain accessible to the public in accordance with the latest federal, state, and local health guidance. Law Enforcement and first responder services remain accessible.

The health and safety of visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners who come to Katmai are our highest priorities. The NPS is working servicewide with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic. We will notify the public if we expand BCDA operations further via press release as well as via website www.nps.gov/katm and social media channel updates.

If contemplating a visit to a national park during this pandemic, the NPS asks visitors to adhere to guidance from the CDC and state and local public health authorities to protect visitors and employees. As services are limited, the NPS urges visitors to continue to practice Leave No Trace principles, including pack-in and pack-out, to keep outdoor spaces safer and healthier. #RecreateResponsibly

 

The Latest Resource Management Report --- It's Fascinating

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Keeping Bristol Bay Safe & Sane

Health is Wealth Campaign

Katmai Conservancy is very proud to support a local fundraiser in the Bristol Bay Burough.

All merchandise was designed locally and 10% of all proceeds will be donated to Bristol Bay Fish Expo to support Little Angels Childcare Academy and ensure the continuance of their early education program.

Click here to support the Health is Wealth Campaign

You will be redirected to the store in Naknek, AK

 

Some background:

The Port of Bristol Bay is the 2nd largest marine cargo port in the United States and the 3rd largest seafood port in the world. Our primary export is the single largest wild sockeye salmon fishery that remains on the planet. While over fishing, urbanization and environmental pollution have destroyed a devastating number of salmon runs around the world, the Bristol Bay salmon fishery is sustainably managed and remains entirely in tact. Our single species harvest takes place on the edge of the Bering sea and is executed from a small number of villages located on the 5 major river systems that spawn an unparalleled harvest that support local, regional, national and global access to real food.

Our annual harvest requires over twenty thousand people, that travel here from from around our region, state, country and globe to harvest, preserve and deliver our bounty your dinner tables. This industry is the key foundation in our local, regional economy and protection of the Bristol Bay fishery is one of the key reasons Alaska is even a state in the federal union. While COVID-19 prevention and mitigation efforts have been very effective within our great state, the looming approach of Alaska’s major fisheries in Cordova, Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, Ketchikan etc are all grappling with the difficulty of preventing economic interests from drowning efforts to implement adequate public health measures.

Bristol Bay Commercial Fishing Season and Covid 19

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May 7, 2020

Bristol Bay is located on the southwest portion of Alaska.  This area is immense in size.  Depending upon how it is described, it is the size of the state of Florida to the size of the Northeastern seaboard of the United States.  Within the region is Bristol Bay Borough which is the gateway community to Katmai National Park and Preserve.   For more about Bristol Bay Borough click here.  http://www.bristolbayboroughak.us/about/area.php

Bristol Bay Region is the home of several small communities with total populations of around 7,000. The largest communities are Dillingham, Naknek and King Salmon.  These communities are not accessible by road and are hours away from Anchorage by plane.

The upcoming commercial fishing season could possible draw over 14,000 additional cannery workers and fishermen.  The canneries have already begun planning.  https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/2020/04/08/bristol-bay-processors-offer-plan-aimed-at-keeping-massive-salmon-fishery-safe/.

Also, the Governor of the State of Alaska issued Health Mandate 017 -Protective Measures for Independent Commercial Fishing Vessels, April 23, 2020.

However, there is only one hospital in the region. It has 16 beds and no intensive care units. , There are 12 spaces for coronavirus patients. Local leaders say that an outbreak among the fishing fleet would overwhelm the system.  https://www.kdlg.org/post/fishing-season-draws-near-bristol-bay-communities-call-governor-safety-plan#stream/0

Bristol Bay is the largest and most valuable sockeye salmon fishery in the world. Millions of reds return to spawn in the streams and lakes around the region. In Bristol Bay alone, the 2018 harvest of all salmon species was approximately 43 million fish, and the value of the 2018 commercial catch topped $283 million.  Last year was a banner year for the salmon fishery.  Here is the projection for 2020.  https://www.adn.com/business-economy/2020/04/21/alaskas-2020-salmon-catch-expected-to-be-down-36-percent-after-a-big-2019-season/

Needless to say, this year, concerns about COVID-19 are hanging over the fishing season.  The entire process is a moving target.  Below are additional links to information:

Bristol Bay groups want state to get tough on incoming fishery workers, including testing for coronavirus before they arrive, April 20.

https://www.alaskapublic.org/2020/04/20/bristol-bay-groups-want-state-to-get-tough-on-incoming-fishery-workers-including-testing-for-coronavirus-before-they-arrive/

Bristol Bay leaders express concern over Alaska’s commercial fishing health mandate, May 1:

https://www.ktoo.org/2020/05/01/bristol-bay-leaders-express-concern-over-alaskas-commercial-fishing-health-mandate/

Bristol Bay Regional Town Hall: April 30, 2020

This is an excellent introduction to the planning and community concerns.

https://www.kdlg.org/post/bristol-bay-regional-town-hall-april-30-2020-0#stream/0

 

 

 

 

 

First, a huge thank you to Katmai National Park and Preserve Leadership Team and to the many leaders of Bristol Bay Borough, our Gateway Community.  To say that they are working under extremely difficult situations, with no predictable paths forward, and an ever changing environment is a total understatement.

You are greatly appreciated

 

For months the park staff has been working to plan for this summer season.   A priority in all of the planning is the safety and well being of the park employees, our neighboring communities, and our visitors.  Risk management is not an easy process and now it is complicated with an ever changing health and social environment.

News Release  April 10,2020

Katmai National Park and Preserve Is Modifying Brooks Camp Developed Area Operations To Implement Current Health Guidance

News Release Date: April 10, 2020

Katmai National Park and Preserve, in response to health guidance from the State of Alaska and the Bristol Bay Borough, is announcing modifications to operations to support federal, state, and local efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Effective immediately and continuing through 12:01 AM on July 1, 2020 Katmai National Park will offer no services outside those that support visitor or resource protection. At Katmai National Park and Preserve, the Brooks Camp Developed Area (please see map), is closed and accordingly the following services and operations will be suspended in order to comply with state and local health guidence:

  • All commercial services occurring in the Brooks Camp Developed Area
  • The Brooks Camp campground.
  • On-site visitor information and services at Brooks Camp.
  • On-site public programs at Brooks Camp

To read the entire official news release, click here.

As with every National Park, there are many issues that surround and inform decision making.  Here are a few:

History

The history of disease and pandemics are still very real for Native Alaskans.  Several times entire villages have been decimated, so the concern and fear of our surrounding communities is real.

https://www.ktva.com/story/41495907/100-years-later-exhibit-honors-alaskans-orphaned-by-spanish-flu

Accessibility

There are no roads to either Katmai National Park and Preserve or any of the regions communities.  Air service is limited in the best of times.

To exacerbate the problem, the entire state of Alaska is under a travel ban including all intrastate travel between communities.

https://www.ktuu.com/content/news/Officials-Coronavirus-cases-rise-in-Alaska-with-one-fatality-Friday-569179551.html

In addition RavnAir that supplied much of the access to the remote areas of Alaska filed for bankruptcy and is no longer providing services.

https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/2020/04/05/ravnair-group-stops-all-flights-and-lays-off-staff-due-to-covid-19/

Medical Facilities

The remote nature of this area of Alaska means limited facilities.

https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/rural-alaska/2020/04/01/an-alaska-hospital-executive-downplayed-the-covid-19-threat-in-an-email-to-staff-shes-no-longer-on-the-job/

Commercial Fishing

One of the world's largest salmon fisheries is Bristol Bay next to Katmai.  This two month season is a major economic engine for Alaska, and a major (often only) source of income for Alaskans.  Now, there are concerns.

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/it-s-hard-when-you-love-something-xlS49l2N20KZjqumwfzZfQ

https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/rural-alaska/2020/04/03/thousands-of-fishery-workers-many-from-outside-alaska-are-headed-to-bristol-bay-one-tiny-hospital-says-it-cant-handle-them-all/

Just samples of the complexity ---- Again, thank you Katmai National Park and Preserve Leadership Team, and Bristol Bay Borough.