Collecting Pacific cod samples; Photo in Public Domain, credit to NOAA
For the first time, the federal government has closed the cod fishery in the Gulf of Alaska for the 2020 season. The reason: Low stock.
The Blob, a marine heatwave that hit the Gulf in 2014 is taking the blunt of the blame. Ocean temperatures rose 4-5 degrees, with some areas of the Gulf rising by 7 degrees. The increase in water temperature killed off young cod.
Cod usually return to the fishery after three years or more. They can live up to 14 years, and tend to reach a weight of 12 pounds.
After the heatwave, cod numbers crashed from 113,830 metric tons in 2014 to 46,080 in 2017. The numbers have been dropping ever since.
The closing will have a huge effect on the winter economies of places like Homer and Kodiak. Prior to The Blob, the fishery was a $50 million industry for Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
“The Blob” in 2014 and 2019; Image credit: NOAA
Unfortunately, the blob’s sequel looks to be heading back to Alaskan waters. As of September 2019, the water temp of Blob 2 was only two degrees shy of the original.
It isn’t a figment of Alaskans’ imagination: Alaska’s winters are indeed warmer. Winter months (December through February) have seen a substantial rise in average temperatures over the past fifty years. The northern part of the state has seen the largest increase, with a 9.0 to 9.2F degree rise, but the entire state is under a warming trend.
Nome Sea Ice:
Data credit: UAF, ACCAP, NOAA, @AlaskaWx
Sea ice off the coast of Nome, Alaska is nonexistent in December, defying the historical record. Everything but recent history, that is. The drop off the statistical edge that the graph shows is pretty eye-opening.
The Port of Nome was open and operating at the end of November, which is the latest that has happened on record.
Thursday morning was just a tad chilly in Interior Alaska. Fort Yukon dropped to -45F. The record low for the date in Fort Yukon is -68F, so it’s still balmy from that vantage point.
The Fairbanks airport hit -20F at 8am on Thursday. The first time we had officially dropped to -20 for the season. We are 2-1/2 weeks late (November 19) from the average first -20 of the season, but we are still 10 days earlier than in 2018.
The temp at the cabin at 8am was -26F on Thursday.
There is a small local museum on the second floor of the Co-Op Plaza Building in the heart of downtown Fairbanks. I believe that two museums combined forces, with the Community Museum embracing the once separate Dog Mushing Museum, which had fallen on hard times.
The 1962 Bombardier Ski-Doo is a powerhouse of snow, stomping fun. The four-cycle engine produces 7 whole horsepower, and offers a top speed of 15mph. Is that quicker than a horse-drawn sleigh? The little Ski-Doo last raced in the 2006 Tired-Iron Snowmachine Rally, which is an annual event here in Fairbanks.
Dog mushing is a major part of Interior Alaska’s identity, although recreational mushers are becoming a rare breed. Currently, around the same time frame in March as the Dog Derby of 1941, Fairbanks hosts the Open North American Championship dog sled races. The Open North American brings in mushers from around the globe.
The big race for Fairbanks is the Yukon Quest, which runs between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The 1000 mile race was first run in 1984. The start line alternates yearly between the two cities.
This Yukon style toboggan, circa 1920, is representative of the style used in the Interior Alaska woods. They traveled better than sleds with runners. The woodwork was obviously done by hand, and the sides, and back are made of moose hide. It was built, owned and operated by a famed local trapper.
The museum is full of photographs from all stages of Fairbanks’ history. From the gold rush days of its founding, to the Great Flood, and beyond.
During the tourist season, the film “Attla” has been shown on a weekly basis at the museum. George Attla was the iconic Alaskan dogsled racer. He dominated sprint races, with a career that spanned from 1958 to 2011, doing it all on one good leg. Mr Attla, originally from the village of Koyukuk, passed away in 2015.
On a separate, but related note: The PBS show, “Independent Lens” will be broadcasting an episode on George Attla on December 16. Check your local PBS station for showtimes.
November was a warm month across the State of Alaska. With the lack of sea ice, Utqiagvik was a staggering 16.1 degrees above normal for the month. By comparison, Fairbanks was a modest 10.6 degrees above normal for November.
Graph credit: ACCAP
Sea ice in the Chukchi Sea was at the lowest level ever recorded for November. In fact, sea ice was at such a low level, that it was below the daily average levels for entire summers prior to 2001.
November highlights: Data credit: NOAA; Graphic credit: @AlaskaWx
Some highlights for the month statewide:
The final week of the month hit the village of Bettles, with a record 3-day snowfall of 28.3″. That same storm also set the 2-day record.
Anchorage, Cold Bay and Kodiak all saw their warmest November on record, while Utqiagvik experienced its second warmest.
On Thanksgiving morning the temperature in Fairbanks was 33F, which is only the seventh time in 116 years that Fairbanks saw above freezing temperatures on that day.
Nome had no snow on the ground during November, yet Chulitna received 78.5″!
Kotzebue continues its streak of above average temperatures for the 27th consecutive month.
Fred Cox attempts to put one through the uprights at The Met, Paul Krause holding
Fred Cox, the long time kicker for the Minnesota Vikings, passed away this week. He was 80, just three weeks shy of his 81st birthday.
Cox was drafted by the Cleveland Browns as a fullback out of the University of Pittsburgh. The plan was for Cox to block for the future Hall of Famer, Jim Brown. A back injury had legendary coach Paul Brown telling Cox to switch to kicker. Unfortunately, another Hall of Famer, Lou Groza was still kicking for Cleveland. Cox was traded to Minnesota, and became their full time kicker in 1963.
Cox would play 15 seasons for the Vikings, never missing a game. He retired as the franchise leading scorer with 1365 points. Still the franchise record.
Cox was named All-Pro for the 1969-1971 seasons, playing in the 1970 Pro Bowl. He is one of 11 Vikings to have played in all four of their Super Bowl appearances. Cox was also named to the squad of the Top 50 Vikings when the team hit their 50th Anniversary.
While playing for the Vikings, Cox and Minneapolis resident John Mattox teamed up to invent the NERF football. While Mattox wanted a heavy ball that “kids couldn’t kick out of their yards”, Cox suggested a foam ball to “prevent a bunch of sore legged kids.” After making a mold, and injecting it with foam, Cox & Mattox took the ball to Parker Bros. The rest is back yard history. Not to mention a few living rooms.
As a young kid, my Dad would take me out to the old Met, and I saw Freddie the Foot kick many, many times, and I can’t tell you how many NERF footballs I owned when I was growing up. Rest In Peace, Freddie; you were in the middle of a lot of very good memories.