Ferry service gaps create food shortages in Southeast Alaska communities

Feb 26, 2020

Empty grocery store shelves are becoming a common sight in coastal communities that rely on the Alaska Marine Highway System to stock food.

As the shutdown in regional ferry service continues, private business owners are trying to keep up with the demand as desperate customers look for options.

Elleana Elliott is a mother of two in Hoonah. She said the town’s stores stocked up on groceries in anticipation of reduced ferry service.

Basketball has long been Southeast Alaska’s favorite high school sport, but cuts to Alaska’s state ferry system have made it harder for teams to travel.

“Pretty much every school in Southeast has a basketball program,” said Jaime Cabral, activities director at Petersburg High School.

It’s an indoor sport, so unlike baseball or football, basketball teams aren’t at the mercy of the weather.  But Southeast’s geography makes travel difficult.

Sealaska Corporation announced its biggest dividend in decades to shareholders with ties to Southeast Alaska. Thousands live in the Inside Passage and there’s a tradition to take shopping trips to larger communities. Gaps in ferry service means many aren’t able to make the trip.