July 3rd 2015
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Finding clues to disappearing Chinook salmon. Updates after this
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A state-backed five year, $30 million dollar Initiative is underway to discover why Alaska’s Chinook salmon production has declined since 2007. More than 100 researchers and over three dozen projects are focused on Chinook stocks in 12 major systems from Southeast to the Yukon. Early on, they’ve pinned down some findings –
It’s not the fresh water production of the juvenile Chinook that is the reason this is occurring, it’s being driven by poor marine survival.
Ed Jones is Fish and Game Coordinator for Sportfish and the lead for the Chinook Salmon Research Initiative.
But what has definitely occurred is for whatever reason, and we don’t know why, once these juvenile Chinook salmon are entering the ocean they are not surviving at the rates they once did. And at the same time we also are seeing younger and smaller Chinook returning to spawn and this obviously results in smaller fish being caught. 6
At each river system, the Chinook team is estimating how many young fish are going to the ocean, shoring up estimates of how many older fish are returning to spawn, and tracking the marine catches.
That’s an effort to estimate the harvests of these 12 indicator stocks in detail. So we’re going to implement tagging programs on the juveniles and as they go out to the ocean and swim around they’ll be marked with an adipose fin clip. Will also include a tiny coded wire tag in their head and those heads will be sent to the lab in Juneau where can tell when and where fish were released. Along with other sampling, We use that to estimate the contribution of that stock to that particular fishery and we can get the detailed harvest information we need. And with all those three components we can do full stock reconstruction.
Chinook spend up to five years in the ocean and Jones says production goes through up and down cycles. A few years ago, west coast and British Columbia stocks were said to be doomed – but they rebounded and in some cases are showing record numbers. Jones believes that’s what will eventually occur in Alaska.
The take home message is productivity cycles and unfortunately in Alaska right now we are at the low end of that cycle. It will turn around so don’t lose hope.
Find more about the Chinook Initiative at Fish and Game’s home page .
Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. (www.oceanbeauty.com) In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.