ALASKA SALMON TRAGEDY DEEPENS AS MORE NO FISHING SIGNS GO UP
US and Alaska government agencies have reported that the smallest number of King/Chinook salmon in all of history is swimming home.
Alaska has always been Heaven on Earth, at least for fishermen, okay for fisher folk, but not anymore.
The iconic Alaska salmon fishing scene is as much a part of a diminishing history as are some politicians political careers. Fmr. Governor Sarah Palin, an avid and adept fisherwoman, and all of the rest of Alaska’s fisherfolk won’t be able to get their salmon fishing fix in this year.
Much of the state will be blanketed with NO FISHING signs for the prized, bigger is better, King Salmon which the season for which had been planned to open on April 15, according to a Monday emergency order from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The ‘NO FISHING SIGNS’ come as fisheries guru’s and bureaucrats report they expect a second-straight year of record-low king salmon returns on the Taku River close to the state capital of Juneau. The Taku is the benchmark river for Alaska’s ‘Spring/King’ salmon.
“We’ve been in a period of low productivity, not just on the Taku, but on several rivers up and down the coast,”
Says, Juneau Area Management Biologist Daniel Teske.
“Forecasts for this coming season are expected to be well below our escapement goals, so we need to limit harvest as much as possible.”
Salmon managers forecast that a mere 13,300 spawning king salmon will return this year. That’s a staggeringly low number. Only a fraction of that total number actually enters into the river, known as the ‘escapement’ number, those that did not get eaten by other marine life as they approach the river, such as seals, sea-lions, Orca whales, eagles, and fisherfolk. It’s common for only 50% of the total expected run to be counted as ‘escapement’, do the math that means this year’s fish in the river may number a mere 7,000 fish.
Alaska Fish and Game’s escapement goals set a guideline for the number of spawning King salmon needed to keep population numbers healthy. Currently, the lowest number needed to be protected for escapement is 19,000 fish while the desired goal is 36,000. With barely 1/3 of the minimum number of fish expected to spawn the future for Alaska’s most sought after prized King salmon is dismal to say the least.
Something terrible is happening to Alaska’s King Salmon . . . they are starving at sea!
An active scientific debate rages over just why Southeast King salmon, along with all the other species of Alaska Salmon are struggling. But all agree on one thing and that is where the fish are suffering their greatest losses, it is far out on their distant ocean pastures. Low numbers of King Salmon on the Taku matches precisely to equally cataclysmic collapses of Kings on other Southeast Alaska rivers like the Chilkat, Stikine and Unuk. It is clear all these fish which swim to sea as babies and put on 95% of their body weight on their common ocean pasture are clearly not surviving on those collapsing ocean pastures.
Fish on ocean pastures are no different than grazing livestock and wildlife on pastures on land, as the pastures turn into deserts, whether dusty brown or clear blue, they can no longer sustain large herds/schools of livestock/wildlife.
“The increased die-off must be happening in a marine environment”, Teske said, “otherwise numbers on the four rivers wouldn’t fall at the same time.”
“We look at the model and it’s primarily showing something happening in the ocean environment,”
During the 1989 to 2013 time frame an average of 42,000 king salmon a year have made it past fishermen to freshwater spawning grounds on the Taku River. One year, 1997, a record high of 114,938 fish made it into the river while last year, 2016, saw the all time historic low number of 12,381.
This doesn’t have to be!
There is a solution!
We have proven we can Bring Back The Fish!
Following my 2012 Gulf of Alaska salmon pasture restoration project the fish came back. In that work, along with 11 shipmates, on one single fishing vessel we restored a vast ocean salmon pasture to historic health and abundance.
It just worked, the very next year the Pink salmon proved it. In 2013 the Pink Salmon, our target species, was expected to see a fishing season with 50 million fish caught. Instead 226 million of our pasture fed, nourished, and fat Pinks were caught in the largest catch of salmon in all of Alaska salmon history. That utterly unexpected and historic catch resulted, according to the State of Alaska, in an additional $700+ million dollars of economic activity in the state.
Join me in bringing back Alaska salmon and indeed fish everywhere in the world.