ANCHORAGE ALASKA—Fishermen off the coast of Alaska’s Bering Sea last year caught a record two million metric tons of cod, flounder, and other bottomfish, nearly 50% more than the harvest of a decade ago. During the same period, the yield of Alaska king crab plunged by 90%, to a scant 42 million pounds. Marine scientists think there might be a causal connection between the two trends, but they have no data to back up their hunch.

Hundreds of miles to the east, in the state’s vast interior, placex miners divert streams and rivers to extract gold from ore-bearing soil. But their methods pollute the water for users downstream. They are under pressure from state and federal environment authorities to find cleaner ways to mine the precious metal, but nobody is funding the necessary research.

Each year, the federal government spends about $50 million in R&D funds in Alaska (see story...

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