04 October 2021

North Pacific salmon are dwindling

Two articles today on this subject.  First from Bloomberg re Alaska:
In a normal year, the smokehouses and drying racks that Alaska Natives use to prepare salmon to tide them through the winter would be heavy with fish meat, the fruits of a summer spent fishing on the Yukon River like generations before them.

This year, there are no fish. For the first time in memory, both king and chum salmon have dwindled to almost nothing and the state has banned salmon fishing on the Yukon, even the subsistence harvests that Alaska Natives rely on to fill their freezers and pantries for winter. The remote communities that dot the river and live off its bounty — far from road systems and easy, affordable shopping — are desperate and doubling down on moose and caribou hunts in the waning days of fall.

“Nobody has fish in their freezer right now. Nobody,” said Giovanna Stevens, 38, a member of the Stevens Village tribe who grew up harvesting salmon at her family's fish camp. “We have to fill that void quickly before winter gets here."

Opinions on what led to the catastrophe vary, but those studying it generally agree human-caused climate change is playing a role as the river and the Bering Sea warm, altering the food chain in ways that aren't yet fully understood. Many believe commercial trawling operations that scoop up wild salmon along with their intended catch, as well as competition from hatchery-raised salmon in the ocean, have compounded global warming's effects on one of North America's longest rivers.
And this from The Guardian re Northern California:
As a lifelong reservation resident, Gensaw recalls when fresh food was abundant. “I grew up with fish patties, rice and fish, noodles and fish, salmon sandwiches, dried fish,” she remembers fondly. “We never understood how lucky we were, that it was going to go away.”

The Yurok reservation where Gensaw lives sits on a remote strip of land that snakes shoulder to shoulder with the final 44 miles of the Klamath River along the misty northern California coast. In 2001, drought descended on the Klamath Basin, the watershed that feeds the river. Due to a history of water mismanagement in the basin, combined with a historic drought, the river is sick – and the Yurok are too.

The salmon they have long depended on as dietary staple and cultural cornerstone have become scarce... Earlier this year, a fish kill of enormous magnitude left 70% of juvenile salmon dead, according to Yurok biologists. Tribal scientists later found the deadly pathogen Ceratonova shasta, which spreads when water quality is low and fish are stressed, present in 97% of the fish they captured...

For Gensaw, that means restoring the river and its salmon population to health, because when the fish thrive, so do the children and families. “No fish means no food,” she says. “Our communities depend on the river for sustenance.”

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