Concerned About Fisheries, Unalaskans March For Climate Awareness

May 2, 2017

During the People’s Climate March, high school students led Unalaska demonstrators from the small boat harbor to Front Beach.
Credit Laura Kraegel/KUCB

Over the weekend, 60 Unalaskans hit the streets — and the beach— to participate in the People's Climate March.

Local demonstrators joined hundreds of thousands of people nationwide in protesting the Trump administration's policies on the environment and raising awareness about climate change.

"Boom! Like thunder! Climate change will take you under!" High school students led the charge at Unalaska's march, chanting at the front of the group. "Flash! Like lightning! Climate change is so darn frightening!"

The students hoisted signs high in the air. They bore slogans such as "The tides are rising and so are we" and "Right is right, even if no one else does it."

CJ Tapaoan, 18 , said messages like these are particularly important in Unalaska.

"Our town revolves around fishing," said Tapaoan. "Climate change and all that environmental stuff affects us the most. I'm actually kind of worried."

According to Mayor Frank Kelty, that worry is warranted. He's been involved in the seafood industry for decades, and he said warming ocean waters are clearly having an impact.

"During surveys, we're not seeing crab where they should be," said Kelty. "In the last couple of years, we're seeing pollock that are somewhat smaller and not as robust as they were."

Beyond the ecosystem, those trends could spell trouble for Unalaska's economy and its reliance on Bering Sea fisheries. Especially if the federal government goes through with proposed cuts to environmental programs.

"Right now, it's unbelievable how irresponsible the decision makers are," said Amy Purevsuren. She helped to organize the march with local activist group Alaskans for Compassion and Truth.

"To roll back funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to roll back funding for science, to claim that science is alternative facts … It's up to the United States to be a strong leader in this area, and they're not," said Purevsuren. "So it’s up to the citizens to speak out and demand it."

Purevsuren said she hopes Unalaskans will continue to show grassroots support for the environment and other social causes. She said turnout for the climate march was a good sign, especially with young people leading the way.

About 60 Unalaskans gathered on Front Beach to take photos at the end of the climate march.
Credit Laura Kraegel/KUCB