ST. PAUL ISLAND

Pipa Escalante/KUCB

PenAir is headed to the auction block Wednesday — more than a year after the southwest Alaska airline filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Court and company officials have declined to name the prospective buyers that submitted bids last week, but residents say they're hoping for more reliable service.

Lauren Divine has had a lot of "unfortunate" experiences flying PenAir.

"With customer service, reservations, flights being delayed and canceled," she said.

Pipa Escalante/KUCB

Citing a nationwide pilot shortage, PenAir is reducing its flights to St. Paul Island and Dillingham.

Starting Oct. 1, the airline will fly between St. Paul and Anchorage three times per week instead of four — and between Dillingham and Anchorage two times per day instead of three.

"PenAir initiated a strong recruitment campaign several months ago and continue to hire and train as quickly and safely as possible," said company officials in a written statement. "We are confident we will be able to resume our schedule once our crew numbers permit."

John Ryan / KUCB

 

A rat is loose on St. Paul Island. And that’s a big deal because the Pribilof Islands have always been rat free.

Steve Delehanty, Refuge Manager for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, says rats bring significant economic and environmental concerns.

“They damage people’s property. They damage food storage. They damage ship and boat electronics. They damage wildlife,” Delehanty said. “They eat birds, they eat bird eggs, they eat chicks. They can also transmit diseases.”

Laura Kraegel/KUCB

For the last century, reindeer have roamed St. Paul Island without much oversight.

But now, the tribal government is stepping up its management style to boost subsistence options and the local economy.

Fleshy red reindeer quarters are spread across the tables of St. Paul’s tavern. Surrounding them are eager preteens, wielding knives and wearing plastic gloves.

“I don’t think we can cut through this bone," says one student. "It’s like that thick.”

“No! You don’t want to cut through the bone," a teacher responds. 

Courtesy of Jared Weems

In the Pribilof Islands, no one’s gotten an accurate count of blue king crab since the population crashed hard in the 1980s.

This summer, a marine biologist is trying to change that, with the species’ first in-depth study in more than 30 years.

His ultimate goal: Determine if blue crab can make a comeback — or if it’s gone for good.

It’s a foggy day on St. Paul Island, and Jared Weems  is itching for the weather to clear up. He wants to get out on the water and back to work.

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