Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, February 05, 2007

High mercury levels found in Alaska fish

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ANCHORAGE - Samples taken from five types of Alaska fish contain too much mercury for unlimited eating, Alaska health officials said.

The fish - halibut weighing more than 50 pounds, shark, lingcod, yellow eye rockfish and spiny dogfish - are safe to eat in normal helpings for most people. But they might not be OK in large quantities for pregnant women and small children, according to officials.

"Our largest, most important recommendation is, we want people to eat fish because fish is really good for you," said Lori Verbrugge, a toxicologist with the state Department of Health and Social Services.

All salmon varieties tested low for mercury.

"Don't shy away from all halibut either," Verbrugge said. "The real concern with halibut is a person who catches one large halibut that happens to contain a lot of mercury, and they're eating off it all year."

The state plans to revise its guidelines on how much of the higher-mercury fish people should eat, Verbrugge said. First, the data will be sent to groups of subsistence users, charter fishing operators and others for review.

The state health department has previously said that people could safely eat an unrestricted amount of fish caught in Alaska waters. At the same time, the federal government said women of childbearing age and young children should eat only two meals of fish low in mercury per week to limit exposure.

About 2,800 samples have been sent in by study participants ranging from fish biologists to subsistence fishermen.

Man charged with sexual abuse of minor

ANCHORAGE - A man who was considered a leader in Anchorage's deaf community has been charged with sexually abusing a boy in his care.

In court on Thursday, Randall Danes, 39, learned through a sign-language interpreter that he was being charged with sexual abuse of a minor in the first and second degrees, and one count of attempted sexual abuse.

Danes, who was not a licensed child care provider, had babysat for as many as 15 children. They include a 10-year-old boy police allege he molested for several years.

The boy, who was developmentally delayed, reported the alleged abuse to his parents in early January, according to a complaint filed by police. The boy is not deaf, but his mother and stepfather are, and he communicates with them using sign language.

The boy told police that Danes asked him to perform oral sex in the summer of 2006 and again at the end of December, court documents say. His bail was set at $100,000 cash.

Danes is listed in public records as the president of Williwaw Recreational Club for the Deaf and has held other leadership positions in the deaf community.

Police: Stolen objects posted on MySpace

ANCHORAGE - An 18-year-old who police say stole items from an Eagle River church allegedly posed with the objects on the Web site

Moisae Martushev, 18, was pictured bare-chested and brandishing a handgun against a backdrop of marijuana bongs. In his other hand, the youth held a cross that church officials believe was stolen during a break-in two weeks ago.

Police said they have not proved the items belong to the church because they have not seized the objects.

The Rev. Bob Young of Holy Spirit Episcopal Church said the loss of the processional cross caused much angst for the church because it was one of only a few objects that had survived two fires.

Police discovered the site after a tipster called it in, and they arrested Martushev after he tried to pawn other items stolen from churches.

Martushev appeared in an Anchorage court this week and was charged with 34 counts of burglary, theft and criminal mischief. He and three others are accused of breaking into a string of Anchorage churches.

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