Thursday, August 19, 2010

Yukon chum (one of the other salmon) in trouble

Just when you were ready to cry over the disappearance of Yukon River kings, comes the news that Yukon chum salmon are also in the toilet.

Chum salmon (aka dog or keta salmon) are the poor cousins of the more popular chinook (king), coho (silver), and sockeye (red) salmon. Chum are less popular than their "rock star" salmon relatives and their reputation mostly doesn't get outside of the salmon land around the edges of the northern Pacific ocean. But they're abundant in some areas and important for subsistence fishing.

Or at least chums used to be important. Subsistence users are having a bad year catching chum salmon on the brawling Yukon River as few fish and high water are making it hard to catch enough to last the winter. This doesn't mean a few more trips to the store, in some places where they rely on chum salmon there ain't no store (at least not the kind of store you and I are used to) and not a lot of cash to buy caviar instead. This is real subsistence fishing, not leisure time hobby fishing where people eat the fish because they like it.

Why are chum salmon missing from the Yukon River? Nobody seems to know for sure, and sadly there are hints of decline elsewhere for chums. Is this the next salmon problem? Is this a hint that Alaska's overconfidence in their fishery management is mostly due to Alaska getting a lucky break thanks to good natural conditions over the last couple of decades (hint)? We'll see. Maybe the people who've been trumpeting Alaska's successes over the last few years will end up eating some crow.


Anonymous said...

yikes, I wasn't aware that there was THAT much trouble with salmon...more familiar with the ocean. kind of reminds you of how now that the big fish like tuna, swordfish are mostly gone, people are turning to catching what they call "trash fish." Eventually there will be an impact on the "trash fish" just like in this case. Do these guys spend part of the time in the ocean too?

Anonymous said...

40% of salmon in Alaska is hatchery raised. 28% of that 40% is of the chum variety. If robust hatchery fish are not returning, how are the real 'wild' salmon faring? Or is it better to just ignore that question and keep playing with this ocean experiment we call ocean ranching?

Seems like the feed bucket (our ocean) may not be able to support over 5 billion hatchery salmon.

Mark, good job calling out ASMI in your hyperlink. Should include Monterey Bay Aquarium (SEafood Watch) in that PR group as well.


The Truth About Alaska Salmon