Environmental Programming

KANA‘s Environmental Program provides technical advice and support to village tribal governments with environmental concerns. Realized and potential projects cover a wide range, including solid waste management, hazardous waste removal, water and air quality, climate change adaptation,  contamination at former military installations, protection of subsistence resources, identification of invasive species, and oil spill response.

KANA works closely with Kodiak Island tribes on marine water quality including shellfish toxin monitoring and ocean acidification sampling. KANA also hosts a monthly environmental work group, Kodiak Environmental Leaders & Professionals (KELP). KELP is dedicated to improving communication and cooperation on local environmental issues and projects.

Environmental Programming

Ocean acidification is an invisible problem with real social and economic impacts. Because of increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the ocean is 30% more acidic today than it was 300 years ago. The ocean’s lower pH affects organisms like clams and crabs, which have to use more energy to form their shells. Different locations are vulnerable to ocean acidification for different reasons at different times of year.

KANA’s water quality monitoring program stemmed from concerns among Kodiak Islands tribal members that the wild foods they depend on may be increasingly contaminated.

The project is part of an Alaska-wide effort funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Tribal members collect ocean water samples weekly in Port Lions, Ouzinkie, Old Harbor, Larsen Bay and Kodiak.

The samples are assayed for temperature, salinity, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen. Test results help build profiles of local conditions, seasonal changes and environmental impacts, to help communities better understand water chemistry in their subsistence harvest areas.

Subsistence harvest of shoreside plants and shellfish is critical to the lives and traditional cultures of coastal Alaska Native communities. Understanding how ocean acidification works is critical to help us protect our subsistence resources.  

To learn more, call KANA Environmental Coordinator Andie Wall at 907-486-1313, or email

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What is PSP?

Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) is caused by eating shellfish contaminated with saxitoxin. Saxitoxins, also known as PSP toxins, are found in shellfish such as mussels, cockles, clams, scallops, oysters and crabs. Historically, Kodiak Island has had high levels of PSP, which can cause deadly neurological symptoms. There are no beaches in the Kodiak Islands that are considered safe from PSP contamination.

Symptoms usually begin within two hours of eating contaminated shellfish but can start anywhere from 15 minutes to 10 hours later.

Symptoms are generally mild and can include numbness or tingling of the face, arms, and legs, headache, dizziness, nausea and loss of coordination. In severe cases, muscle paralysis and respiratory failure can occur.

In cases of severe poisoning, the Centers for Disease Control states that muscle paralysis and respiratory failure can lead to death in 2–25 hours. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above after eating shellfish, don’t hesitate to call your doctor or 911 if you are especially symptomatic.

In response to the need to monitor levels of PSP on the Kodiak Islands, KANA’s environmental department sampled locations on the Kodiak road system: two sites at Near Island and two on Mission Beach. 

We take weekly phytoplankton samples and biweekly tissue samples collected on the beaches at low tide. Samples are analyzed for PSP levels at KANA’s project partners, Sitka Tribe of Alaska.  

Since last spring, all three types of PSP have been confirmed.  They are: Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning or PSP and Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning or ASP. There is also a less dangerous kind called Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning. 

In large enough quantities, each poses a threat to human health. As PSP is the most life-threatening, this our project focuses on the abundance PSP toxin, saxitoxin, in shellfish tissue. 

KANA is collaborating with local and state entities to publish community advisories when levels are above the regulatory limit, especially when they reach lethal levels. 

“The only safe way of knowing if your shellfish are clean of PSP is to have them tested,” said KANA environmental technician Andi Wall.

Biotoxins are not destroyed during cooking or freezing. Pressure cooking does not destroy the toxins. There is no way to prepare shellfish infected with PSP toxins that will make them safe to eat.

Crab, because they feed on shellfish, can also become toxic. Even if the crab meat is safe, toxins tend to accumulate in crab gut and “butter” (the white-yellow fat inside the back of the shell). Clean crab thoroughly andavoid eating the crab butter and guts.

To learn more, contact Stephanie Mason at 907-512-5353 or stephanie.mason@kodiakhealthcare.org or Andie Wall at 907-486-1313 or andie.wall@kodiakhealthcare.org  This project is supported with grant funds provided by the Environmental Protection Agency Indian General Assistance Program and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Resilience.

Many of Alaska’s small rural communities use unlined landfills and burn wastes without emissions treatment. It’s the same here. There is no safe way to get rid of hazardous wastes in rural Alaska, and backhauling is expensive and logistically difficult.

That’s why Backhaul Alaska was created, with a long-term goal to become a waste service for Rural Alaska agencies, individuals, and businesses. Electronics such as computers and screens, lead-acid batteries, and fluorescent light bulbs make up the bulk of hazardous materials found in local landfills. Backhaul Alaska is currently in a pilot phase with Old Harbor, Ouzinkie, Port Lions, and Larsen Bay participating.

KANA participates in Backhaul Alaska by managing in hazardous waste inventories, staging, and logistics. KANA has developed a “Backhaul Best Practices” guide for the Kodiak region and is currently working on Conex container purchases to provide safe storage in each Kodiak community.

To learn more, visit the Backhaul Alaska Website