When you think of Alaska, it’s hard not to think of our world-renowned wild salmon runs. Salmon play a vital role in the cultural, social and economic fabric of Alaska’s communities. Alaska provides nearly half the world’s supply of wild salmon.
While Alaska’s salmon runs are generally cited as among the healthiest and best-managed in the world, they are not invulnerable. In recent years, there have been alarming declines in Chinook (king) salmon returning to spawn. Hatchery production of chum and pink salmon may also be impacting wild stocks.
Many factors are contributing to the statewide decline of Chinook salmon. No matter what the cause, in-river fisheries –subsistence, commercial and sport—have taken drastic reductions to allow salmon to return to spawn, contributing to meeting escapement goals and rebuilding the runs. In this context, reducing the number of Chinook salmon that are caught as bycatch in trawl fisheries off Alaska is critical.
Other threats to the health of Alaska’s wild salmon stocks include changes in the ocean environment due to climate change and ocean acidification.