Congress unanimously passes a bill allowing Alaska’s cruise season to launch this summer.
President Biden orders tighter cyber standards, but the impact on private infrastructure is limited.
Alaska Airlines preps for a busy summer. Sino-Russian activities increase in the Arctic. And a hybrid salmon is about to debut at a supermarket near you.
Here are five things to know in Alaska politics.
U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan says that Alaska’s delegation was not about to let Canada keep American tourists from visiting the Last Frontier this summer.
A unified effort in Congress followed by quick action from the president has enabled Alaska-bound cruise ships to sail this summer and forgo a required stop in Canada.
American leaders worked together to pass the Tourism Restoration Act, introduced by Sullivan and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowsi, after Canada’s
refusal to lift a ban from its ports. Rep. Don Young carried the bill in the House.
“A third country was essentially not being cooperative and was preventing American citizens from one state from visiting another state. It was a precedent that no American regardless of where you live should want,” Sullivan said.
An arcane maritime law requires the large cruise liners to stop in Canada in between visits to U.S. ports. But Canada is banning the ships until 2022 over Covid concerns, which docked Alaska’s summer cruise season.
Or so it seemed.
The Tourism Restoration Act, passed unanimously in Congress, temporarily exempts the ships from Canadian stops. The president immediately signed the legislation into law, with Alaska’s three-member delegation present in the Oval Office.
“When Canadians were saying the Americans are never going to fix this — meaning pass this law — it motivated a lot of people, even beyond Alaska,” Sullivan told reporters.
So there, Canada.
Added Sullivan: “We are not going to let Canada dictate who can visit another state in America.”
Biden blueprint for cybersecurity
President Joe Biden issued an executive order for cybersecurity improvements after the Colonial Pipeline hack, but the new mandates are limited to federal agencies and their vendors.
They do offer a blueprint for private sector companies that own critical infrastructure and need to update cybersecurity, experts say.
Alaska energy lawyer Brad Keithley said that pipeline cybersecurity historically is not a focus of regulators.
“As a result of relatively loose regulatory oversight, the prioritization has been left largely to each pipeline,” said Keithley, who publishes “Thoughts on Oil and Gas,” an industry newsletter.
Revenge travelers book Alaska Airlines flights
Alaska Airlines is opening modernized space at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, its home base, just in time for an anticipated large volume of summer air travel.
Sea-Tac airport’s managing director Lance Lyttle described a pent-up demand by vacationers for “revenge travel,” after Covid-19 kept many people at home in 2020, according to media reports.
The new Sea-Tac airport facility that serves Alaska Airlines will open at the end of June, ahead of schedule.
It will feature new retail and food service space, as well as modernized waiting areas with more light and space.
Pulling back the Ice Curtain
An article published in the magazine, Nature, found that the world’s glaciers have lost nearly 5% of their volume since 2000, with Alaska having among the fastest melts.
Alaska accounted for one-quarter of the world’s glacial melt, which has the potential to harm the global water cycle and ecosystems, researchers warn.
There also are political implications.
Receding ice in the Arctic is opening up sea routes and increasing activities by Russia and China, which have political, economic and military interests in the region.
The American military has taken note, with the U.S. Navy warning that:
“Without sustained American naval presence and partnerships in the Arctic region, peace and prosperity will be increasingly challenged by Russia and China, whose interests and values differ dramatically from ours.”
Hybrid salmon headed for market
AquaBounty Technologies announced that its lab-developed, fast-growing salmon are being harvested for purchase by American restaurants and retailers.
“As we speak, our AquaBounty team is harvesting salmon for U.S. distribution,” CEO Sylvia Wulf said this week.
The publicly traded company sold out its first commercial-scale harvest at its Indiana farm, which amounted to five metric tons of fish.
AquaBounty is promoting the salmon as humanely raised and free of “antibiotics and ocean contaminants.”
The genetically engineered fish grow fast, too.
They are a laboratory mix of Atlantic salmon, Chinook salmon and an eel-like fish called the ocean pout.
“It was precise engineering of one growth gene from a Chinook salmon inserted with the help of the ocean pout into an Atlantic salmon with more than 46,000 genes,” according to AquaBounty.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has referred to the hybrid salmon as Frankenfish.
AquaBounty touts the environment where the fish are raised, their health and the speed at which they mature.
AquaBounty’s fish swim and school naturally, according to the company.
“Raised in land-based recirculating aquaculture systems where the feeding cycle and growing environment are optimized, AquaBounty can produce up to 70 percent more fresh salmon” compared to conventional farm-raised fish, according to the company’s website.
“By locating salmon farming operations on land and following strict bio-security measures, AquaBounty helps protect wild salmon populations and native fisheries that are so important to Indigenous communities and others,” the company said in a recent press release.
Contact political reporter Linda F. Hersey at 459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.