Winter in Unalaska by Sam Zmolek
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  • A former police chief of the remote Pribilof community of St. Paul was sentenced last week to seven years in prison for sexual abuse of a minor. The victim’s mother, Stacy Bourdokofsky, hopes this will help the family move on, but stops short of calling the sentence “justice.”
  • The Aleut Community of St. Paul Island, the tribal government on St. Paul, hopes the project will open new revenue streams and lower prices in the island’s community store.
  • U.S. Coast Guard Rescue teams from across the state responded to five calls for help over the weekend. Teams operated rescues for fishing vessels, a cruise ship and a stranding.
  • After nearly two years without a stable police force, the remote Pribilof Island community of St. Paul is welcoming new Village Public Safety Officers. City Manager Philip Zavadil said he thinks the transition from a police force to public safety officers will be a good change for the remote community. “Not only is it a good fit for St. Paul, I think for most of rural Alaska, it's a better fit because we're not big [cities],” Zavadil said. “We have different problems, different ways of resolving those problems, different challenges.”
  • The collapse of the Bering Sea crab fisheries has put St. Paul Island at risk of losing some of its essential services.The city’s economy is about 90% dependent on the harvest of snow crab, which closed for the first time in the fishery’s history in October. Without Bering Sea snow crab or Bristol Bay red king crab — which has been closed since 2021 — the City of St. Paul is estimating a roughly $2.7 million hit.In light of those anticipated losses, St. Paul’s city government declared a cultural, economic and social emergency in late October, following the fishery closures, and subsequently implemented budgetary cuts, hiring freezes and other measures.Now, the Pribilof Island community faces the loss of its emergency medical services.
  • The recent closure of the Bering Sea snow crab and Bristol Bay red king crab fisheries has some of Western Alaska’s coastal towns taking a hard look at their futures, and one small island is bracing for a huge hit. The Pribilof Island of St. Paul runs on snow crab — also known as opilio crab. The community’s Trident Seafoods is one of the largest crab processing plants in the world. So when fisheries management officials announced the species “overfished” and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game shut down snow crab for the first time in the fishery’s history in October, City Manager Phillip Zavadil knew the community needed to act fast. “We're trying to get creative and have people understand that this is going to happen more and more, and that we need to address it,” Zavadil said. “We can do something now, instead of waiting for next year, when we don't have any funding or we can't provide services.”
  • A 2-year-old allegedly killed by his foster parents has been laid to rest on St. Paul Island. The child, Joshua John Rukovishnikoff, was buried on top of his mother’s grave during a memorial service Saturday. Jeremy Philemonoff is from the Pribilof community of about 350 people and used to be married to the toddler’s mother, Nadesda “Lynnette” Rukovishnikoff, who was killed in September 2021. Philemonoff said they laid John to rest right on top of her casket and placed a small cross in front of hers.
  • ST. PAUL — The Trident Seafoods plant tucked inside this island’s small port is the largest snow crab processor in the nation. On a cold clear day in January, three Trident workers, within the hold of the Seattle-based Pinnacle, grabbed bunches of the shellfish, and placed them in an enormous brailer basket for their brief trip across a dock. The crab were fed into a hopper to be butchered, cooked, brined and frozen. Few of the 360 people who live on St. Paul, largest of the four Pribilof Islands, have opted to work in the plant. Instead jobs are filled with recruits from elsewhere. But the plant still remains a financial underpinning of this Aleut community. Trident pays taxes that help bankroll the expansive services of a city government, which rents apartments, leases construction equipment and even provides plumbers and electricians to make repairs.
  • ABOARD THE PINNACLE, Bering Sea — Through the wheelhouse window, captain Mark Casto spotted a white line on the horizon. The edge of an ice floe was illuminated by bow lights piercing the morning darkness of the Bering Sea. He throttled back the engines. Soon, the Seattle-based crab boat began to nose through closely packed pancake-like pieces and bigger craggy chunks, some the size of boulders, which bobbed about in the currents and clanged against the hull. Casto had hoped this patch of sea would yield a bountiful catch of snow crab to help fill up the boat. Nearby, a few hours earlier, he had set more than two dozen baited pots along the sea bottom. Now, he risked losing them in the fast-moving ice.
  • St. Paul city officials reported the island’s first resident cases of COVID-19 Tuesday.The city said in a statement that two community members tested positive. One was traveling, and the other is a member of their household.