CAPTAIN’S LOG

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You’ve heard me point out the comparatively insignificant share of fish taken by Alaska sport fishermen. The graph below proofs my point. The Yukon is historically one of the great King fisheries in Alaska and the world. Sadly it’s doomed. It’s a shame the trawler harvest, which is largely responsible is not accounted for…
Aaargh…. The King is dead…. #captainlarry
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You’ve heard me point out the comparatively insignificant share of fish taken by Alaska sport fishermen.  The graph below proofs my point.   The Yukon is historically one of the great King fisheries in Alaska and the world.  Sadly it’s doomed.   It’s a shame the trawler harvest, which is largely responsible is not accounted for…
Aaargh…. The King is dead…. #captainlarry

Remember the “good old days” when we sport fishermen in Wild Alaska could keep Yelloweye?
“Learned from a longliner friend that the draggers hit the quota on yelloweye last season. Longliners couldn’t sell the yelloweye bycatch and had to give it away. DON’T ORDER ROCKFISH IN RESTAURANTS. It comes from trawler bycatch!” #captainlarry
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Remember the “good old days” when we sport fishermen in Wild Alaska could keep Yelloweye?  
“Learned from a longliner friend that the draggers hit the quota on yelloweye last season. Longliners couldn’t sell the yelloweye bycatch and had to give it away. DON’T ORDER ROCKFISH IN RESTAURANTS. It comes from trawler bycatch!”  #captainlarry

Comment on Facebook

The sports fishing community in Alaska causes all the problems… 🙄

The good ol days for sure, 2017, One of our favorite pictures from Wild Alaska

We lose a little bit more year after year. Sport fishing is not the problem. If you want to pay for fish book a trip and you’ll have a better quality fish and memories with friends and family.

Saw ADFG News Release about two weeks ago! A SAD situation for sure...

one of my favorite catches

Sure do.

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Why call it “science” when it’s really “politics”?
Aaargh….can’t make this shit up ….
#CaptainLarry
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Why call it “science” when it’s really “politics”?
Aaargh….can’t make this shit up ….
#CaptainLarry

Comment on Facebook

Another example of politics at work…. 🥴

The fish scientists are back on the job.
Aaaargh….it sucks to be a fish in the Bering…
#captainlarry
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The fish scientists are back on the job.  
Aaaargh….it sucks to be a fish in the Bering…
#CaptainLarry

A picture is worth a thousand words, but
PLEASE take the time to read the below thesis on the subject.
Noun. bycatch - unwanted marine creatures that are caught in the nets while fishing for another species.
WALKING ON FISH
Tired of hearing that the state can’t do anything about salmon harvest management without more research, a layman follows the bread-crumb trail of existing research and a lifetime in fisheries.
I heard it countless times: “We were walking on fish, those days.” And I saw it myself, just one of those things you don’t know you’ve got till it’s gone. On the Andreafsky River south of Stebbins­­––a sixty-yard pool with blue backs packed so tight the fish on the edges were being pushed up on the sand bar. On the Lower Yukon in the 60s, way out, no more islands between me and saltwater, a line of gill-net corks completely replaced by a slow boil of huge tails. A few miles upstream at the Alakanuk cannery dock was a scow, maybe 30 by 65 with side binboards, the whole deck two and a half or three feet deep with 25 to 35 lb large red king salmon. A run had hit on the tide and every fisherman upstream of the village was swamped with fish. We were getting $3.50 a piece for them.
Later years, at Sum Dum south of Juneau, a black bear spread out on a two-foot high pile of pink carcasses, no room left in the stream for any more fish, fast swimming schools pushing waves across the bay. Two days travel up the Eek river, south of Bethel, a mixed crowd of char, pinks, and chums so thick they were thumping into my hip boots where the channel narrowed at the head of the bar. A picture I took that day became the cover shot on the May ‘69 issue of the old Alaska Sportsman. And in Bristol Bay, a gillnetter with its hold full, decks loaded, fish sliding down the companionway into the galley. Scant inches of freeboard left. Voice on the radio a little high––“We need a tender, right now. . .”
And at the entrance to Katchemak Bay, the seiner Dutch Maid, out of Seldovia, made a set on a hundred thousand pounds of chums. Wrapped it up and slowly towed the set over to a tender and they used the fish pump to bring the fish straight out of the ocean into the tender. And a final image––five totes of king salmon on a little barge on the Taku River, five thousand pounds of Chinook taken by the Canadians at the first camp above the border, fish headed to Juneau for processing. Walking on fish––it was a way of life.
So now in the early 2020s, on a berry-picking trip to Sum Dum––there was not one fish in the stream, no bodies on the beach. There hasn’t been a commercial opening for Chinook on the Taku since the late 70s. Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers are shut down all the way, including the subsistence harvest. Further afield the Columbia is a politically and legally driven catastrophe of multi million dollar hatchery fish, and the governor of the state of Washington is talking about species extinction. Even without any main-stem dams the Frazer River fish runs are a ghost of what was once grandeur. Some of this is obvious. The Americans gave their fish away to agriculture and electric power. The Canadians gave their entire fish ecology away to the big timber corporations, and now the open pit miners. But still, what’s going on?
Lets start analyzing this from the beginning:
If in your imagination you set yourself down in Alaska, call it day one, before a single fathom of gill net had been strung out in any river, the population of salmon in just about any river would be orders of magnitude different than it is today. The local indigenous population had been walking on fish for generations, fading back into the mist of time. Following from day one of European contact, the increasing population started harvesting fish in their millions without a second thought. This led to the collapse of the apparently infinite fisheries of vulnerable rivers, beginning with, and especially, in South East, and it became obvious that fisheries under the influence of human numbers and technology had to be managed in an attempt to insure survival. There was still full faith in the durability of salmon harvests, but who was benefiting from the fish economy was a source of conflict and political strain. The economics and politics of this conflict contributed to the push for statehood, the elimination of fish traps, and ultimately to limited entry and quotas. Thus, ultimately: the creation of the concept of sustained yield.
Although it pretends to have origins in biology, the phrase ‘sustained yield’ is not derived from biology or fisheries science. It is derived from economics and the need to protect infrastructure investments and prevent the collapse of a steady income over years of effort. Most of the concepts and guiding principles of modern fish management were invented to address the problems as they arose. So, taken as a whole subject, fish harvest management is a mix of economics, biology, and politics.
If you analyze our imaginary river on day one, you can say there are far too many fish. New runs come into the spawning beds and dig up the eggs of previous runs and eggs wash out,[1]fish bodies blanket the sand bars and pollute the water, and it’s a pretty impressive mess characterized by apparent massive excess and waste. So “science” has led us to constructs like ‘effective escapement,’ ‘maximum sustainable yield,’ and a host of other fish-management shibboleths.
But what if it doesn’t work that way? What if the eggs that get washed out are themselves a food source for aquatic invertebrate life that is the food source for the next year’s fry and smolt that migrate out? [2] What if the nutrient source of all those bodies feeds a host of mammal and avian scavengers that fertilize the river lands that grow the berries that feed the birds that spread the seeds that feed the mice that feed the foxes and the wolves (that do a little fishing for themselves) that cull the deer that browse the brush that is green and healthy from salmon nutrients in the soil? What if the scene of apparent overwhelming excess on a river system on day one is deceptive, and there actually aren’t any, or very few, ‘excess’ salmon in terms of long time system viability?[3]
I can’t definitively say that’s how it works, but fisheries management practices seem strikingly at odds with their own, and with academic research. I make the argument that I have the edge here, because the situation as it was on day one was a consequence of eons of evolution. There was something about it that wasn’t intuitively obvious. It didn’t need to be, and couldn’t be, improved, and it was in balance in its own way. Evolution didn’t produce the voluminous numbers of spawners for no reason. The notion that we could harvest millions of fish from these systems and expect the consequences to be minimal was simple ignorance about the massively interrelated nature of the salmon cycle. Now, business, livelihoods, generations of trade practice, and culture is heavily dependent on this history of management practice that is inexorably leading us into an ecological wasteland.
Our first lesson following day one, and the problem with, and for, salmon, is that we catch them. And in calculating ‘our share,’ we dropped the marine nutrient exchange issue and all the other consumers of fish, including the immature fish themselves, out of the picture. The food source for immature fish holding over in fresh water has to be sufficient for one and even two years for every year class of more than one species, and it has to include a food supply for winters when river ice prevents resupply from non-marine sources. Those windrows of rotting bodies on the gravel bars turn out to be a critically important part of the cycle. Commercial fish harvest as it has been practiced for decades, since day one, is a recipe for a long slow degradation of the riverine and upland environment, which is exactly what is unfolding across the state and the entire North American Pacific coast.
The second lesson to be learned from the history of fish, on down the decades, is that salmon are resilient. They have stayed the course over centuries of evolution and have withstood no small amount of abuse and poor decisions in the course of commercial harvests. They did loose some big ones, like all of Europe’s rivers, and all of the North American eastern seaboard. But given a chance they will rebound. They will repopulate streams from which they were blocked by dams if the streams are made accessible again. In the course of time they will learn to make one thousand, even two thousand mile swims up current to populate stable high country nursery streams. This brings us to a modern Yukon River dilemma.
There is a relationship between fish structure and river structure. Salmon returning to a short coastal river only have the energy in the form of stored fat that is sufficient for their destination. The longer and more robust the river, the bigger and more robust the fish to match the challenge. This is the relationship that underscores the biggest rivers supplying the richest and most marketable salmon for human consumption. So we had the famed, and now extinct, Columbia River “June hogs;” Copper River kings at 100$ a piece in the spring in west coast markets; Yukon River Chinook at 35 and 40 pounds apiece. They were that size for a reason. They had a long way to go.
The sonar numbers for the Yukon River this year of 2022 are 44,581 hits at Pilot Station which is across from St. Mary’s within the tide range of salt water; 12,000 hits at Eagle River which is the Canadian Border; and 164 survivors at the Whitehorse hydroelectric dam fish ladder. Observers and managers are asking, what happened to the 32,581 individuals that never showed up at the border?
Remember the association of big rivers and their big fish. Since day one, mesh sizes and other techniques were used to target the big fish for quality and price, and over the decades there was a selection and culling process. Average weights of individual fish in Yukon and Kuskokwim runs have decreased by as much as half. The genetically driven goals of natal stream locations in the extensive Canadian waterways remained constant in individual salmon, but the fish size dropped to, and below, the size needed to pack the energy to make the trip. Of the 44,000 starters, mortality due to insufficient energy took 32,000 of them in the relentless channels of the main stem Yukon. [4]
There is more to this picture. On and before day one, about half the total salmon production of the Yukon came out of Canadian water.[5] This means that the number of 44,581 hits needs, as an order of magnitude, at least a couple more zeros to the left of the decimal point to reflect historic run sizes, and match available natal stream opportunities. Accurate numbers for historic runs are a source of controversy, but oral history and some modern isotope research in lake sediments and tree rings[6]point toward significant numbers.[7]
This event of size-related fish mortality in association with the upper reaches of the Yukon biosphere is an existentially threatening tipping point. If there are no immature salmon with genetically determined natal locations from the rivers’ farthest reaches making their way to saltwater, then no adults will return to populate the upper river. Associated with this dynamic is the loss of the marine nutrient cycle. We are witness to the collapse of the environmental source mechanism for the biggest fish, some 50% of the total Yukon River production, and it constitutes a long-term environmental catastrophe.
* * *
As you think and read about salmon for a while it’s not long before you feel like an immature fingerling getting washed down 2000 miles of river in water so turbid that you can’t see anything, all the while seeking food and somehow getting the trip imprinted on your nervous system well enough to be able to find your way back several years later. The river that is washing you down, dumps you out to an unaccustomed saltwater environment over a few hundred square miles of trackless, shallow, turbulent delta. This also you have to “remember” after several years of foraging and dodging predators as you make the rounds of portions of the 770,000 square mile Bering Sea.
The Bering Sea is one-of-a-kind in the world, being a “sea” at all only because ocean levels rose at the end of the last ice age and swamped the lowlands that had made eastern Siberia and the northwestern reaches of the North American continent a contiguous land mass. This is of interest to the story of Alaska salmon because the size and shallowness of the Bering make it biologically productive on a scale that defies description and is fundamentally unlike the biology characteristic of the world’s deep oceans.
If you get into the math of combinations you learn the most fundamental starting point and that is that it takes very few pieces all making random contact with each other to create immense numbers of possible combinations. That is what is going on in the Bering Sea. There are upwards of twenty or thirty species with sufficient biomass to support commercial or subsistence harvest and hundreds of species in the oceanic mix. All of these species have either prey or predator relationships with others, and over it all are fleets of catcher boats utilizing fishing gear that has developed and changed over the years. This commercial and personal use activity adds combinations to the mix of species interactions to the point that it is impossible to achieve an accurate analysis of the overall Bering Sea biosphere. In the history of commercial exploitation in the North Pacific and Bering Sea, which started in the age of sail, well before the availability of engine power, there are some real nightmares of gear types, gear loss, and vessel and human loss as well. Just one prolonged event was the saga of tangle nets for crab which caused destruction of by-catch species, and which were lost or abandoned by the dozen where they ghost fished, maybe for decades, maybe still to this day. Another bad one was open-ocean longlines that were deployed for miles and slaughtered species randomly from fish to mammals.
At present the technology of greatest concern is industrial-scale catcher processors that use trawls and net drags to take everything in the water column from top to bottom. This technology is a heavy presence worldwide, and it is condemned worldwide without success. Billons of dollars of income potential are at play with this technology. Consequently many millions are spent in economic, political, and management regulation defense. On biological grounds the defensive arguments are pretty much all nonsense. Just the financial conflict of interest alone compromises the data and the science The biological chaos of the millions of pounds of harvest and millions of pounds of dozens of by-catch species makes the effects of untraceable combinations well beyond even approximate understanding.
For our purposes regarding the fish of northwestern rivers, even if the immature fish developing over several years in saltwater were not getting caught and discarded by the draggers, as they claim, against decades of documented evidence, the overall disruption of the Bering sea food web is enough to break the complex salmon cycle and result in the run failures that are today on record. The disruption and collapse of prey availability in the Bering Sea is the other half of the double punch resulting in collapsing river runs and decreasing fish size.
The State of Alaska is saying they need more research to quantify this kind of analysis. But there are too many combinations, its too complex, they will never achieve peer-reviewed quality knowledge before the last salmon becomes a memory of the storied good old days. There has to be a basic, overarching, philosophical change driving a new regulatory environment in Alaska fisheries. Without change of this magnitude, no indigenous child, no commercial fisherman of any race or culture, no citizen of Alaska will ever again ‘walk on fish.’
[1] Pacific Salmon, Ecology and Management, Food Supplies, pg 49
[2] Pacific Salmon, Ecology and Management, Food Supplies. . .pg 39, 40
[3] Finding the Mother Tree; S. Simard, pgs 290; 292; 295
[4] Bioenergetic Ontogeny: . . .Life-Cycle Growth and Survival of Salmon: Pacific Salmon, Ecology and Management, pages 57 - 58, et all.
[5] Pacific Salmon, Ecology and Management, Upper Yukon River Spawning populations, pg 25
[6] Finding the Mother Tree, S. Simard; pg 290: “An old cedar tree could hold a thousand-year record of salmon runs.”
[7] See Bruce Finney, ISU stable isotope lab; Bruce Finney, fifteen years of research in lake cores and isotopes, UAF, Fairbanks
#CaptainLarry
... See MoreSee Less

A picture is worth a thousand words, but 
PLEASE take the time to read the below thesis on the subject.  
Noun. bycatch - unwanted marine creatures that are caught in the nets while fishing for another species.
WALKING ON FISH
Tired of hearing that the state can’t do anything about salmon harvest management without more research, a layman follows the bread-crumb trail of existing research and a lifetime in fisheries.
I heard it countless times: “We were walking on fish, those days.” And I saw it myself, just one of those things you don’t know you’ve got till it’s gone. On the Andreafsky River south of Stebbins­­––a sixty-yard pool with blue backs packed so tight the fish on the edges were being pushed up on the sand bar. On the Lower Yukon in the 60s, way out, no more islands between me and saltwater, a line of gill-net corks completely replaced by a slow boil of huge tails.  A few miles upstream at the Alakanuk cannery dock was a scow, maybe 30 by 65 with side binboards, the whole deck two and a half or three feet deep with 25 to 35 lb large red king salmon. A run had hit on the tide and every fisherman upstream of the village was swamped with fish. We were getting $3.50 a piece for them.
Later years, at Sum Dum south of Juneau, a black bear spread out on a two-foot high pile of pink carcasses, no room left in the stream for any more fish, fast swimming schools pushing waves across the bay. Two days travel up the Eek river, south of Bethel, a mixed crowd of char, pinks, and chums so thick they were thumping into my hip boots where the channel narrowed at the head of the bar. A picture I took that day became the cover shot on the May ‘69 issue of the old Alaska Sportsman.  And in Bristol Bay, a gillnetter with its hold full, decks loaded, fish sliding down the companionway into the galley. Scant inches of freeboard left. Voice on the radio a little high––“We need a tender, right now. . .”
And at the entrance to Katchemak Bay, the seiner Dutch Maid, out of Seldovia, made a set on a hundred thousand pounds of chums. Wrapped it up and slowly towed the set over to a tender and they used the fish pump to bring the fish straight out of the ocean into the tender. And a final image––five totes of king salmon on a little barge on the Taku River, five thousand pounds of Chinook taken by the Canadians at the first camp above the border, fish headed to Juneau for processing. Walking on fish––it was a way of life.
So now in the early 2020s, on a berry-picking trip to Sum Dum––there was not one fish in the stream, no bodies on the beach. There hasn’t been a commercial opening for Chinook on the Taku since the late 70s. Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers are shut down all the way, including the subsistence harvest. Further afield the Columbia is a politically and legally driven catastrophe of multi million dollar hatchery fish, and the governor of the state of Washington is talking about species extinction. Even without any main-stem dams the Frazer River fish runs are a ghost of what was once grandeur. Some of this is obvious. The Americans gave their fish away to agriculture and electric power. The Canadians gave their entire fish ecology away to the big timber corporations, and now the open pit miners.  But still, what’s going on?
Lets start analyzing this from the beginning:
If in your imagination you set yourself down in Alaska, call it day one, before a single fathom of gill net had been strung out in any river, the population of salmon in just about any river would be orders of magnitude different than it is today.   The local indigenous population had been walking on fish for generations, fading back into the mist of time. Following from day one of European contact, the increasing population started harvesting fish in their millions without a second thought. This led to the collapse of the apparently infinite fisheries of vulnerable rivers, beginning with, and especially, in South East, and it became obvious that fisheries under the influence of human numbers and technology had to be managed in an attempt to insure survival. There was still full faith in the durability of salmon harvests, but who was benefiting from the fish economy was a source of conflict and political strain. The economics and politics of this conflict contributed to the push for statehood, the elimination of fish traps, and ultimately to limited entry and quotas.  Thus, ultimately: the creation of the concept of sustained yield.
Although it pretends to have origins in biology, the phrase ‘sustained yield’ is not derived from biology or fisheries science. It is derived from economics and the need to protect infrastructure investments and prevent the collapse of a steady income over years of effort.  Most of the concepts and guiding principles of modern fish management were invented to address the problems as they arose. So, taken as a whole subject, fish harvest management is a mix of economics, biology, and politics.
If you analyze our imaginary river on day one, you can say there are far too many fish. New runs come into the spawning beds and dig up the eggs of previous runs and eggs wash out,[1]fish bodies blanket the sand bars and pollute the water, and it’s a pretty impressive mess characterized by apparent massive excess and waste. So “science” has led us to constructs like ‘effective escapement,’ ‘maximum sustainable yield,’ and a host of other fish-management shibboleths.
But what if it doesn’t work that way?  What if the eggs that get washed out are themselves a food source for aquatic invertebrate life that is the food source for the next year’s fry and smolt that migrate out? [2] What if the nutrient source of all those bodies feeds a host of mammal and avian scavengers that fertilize the river lands that grow the berries that feed the birds that spread the seeds that feed the mice that feed the foxes and the wolves  (that do a little fishing for themselves) that cull the deer that browse the brush that is green and healthy from salmon nutrients in the soil? What if the scene of apparent overwhelming excess on a river system on day one is deceptive, and there actually aren’t any, or very few, ‘excess’ salmon in terms of long time system viability?[3]
I can’t definitively say that’s how it works, but fisheries management practices seem strikingly at odds with their own, and with academic research. I make the argument that I have the edge here, because the situation as it was on day one was a consequence of eons of evolution. There was something about it that wasn’t intuitively obvious. It didn’t need to be, and couldn’t be, improved, and it was in balance in its own way. Evolution didn’t produce the voluminous numbers of spawners for no reason. The notion that we could harvest millions of fish from these systems and expect the consequences to be minimal was simple ignorance about the massively interrelated nature of the salmon cycle. Now, business, livelihoods, generations of trade practice, and culture is heavily dependent on this history of management practice that is inexorably leading us into an ecological wasteland.
Our first lesson following day one, and the problem with, and for, salmon, is that we catch them. And in calculating  ‘our share,’ we dropped the marine nutrient exchange issue and all the other consumers of fish, including the immature fish themselves, out of the picture. The food source for immature fish holding over in fresh water has to be sufficient for one and even two years for every year class of more than one species, and it has to include a food supply for winters when river ice prevents resupply from non-marine sources. Those windrows of rotting bodies on the gravel bars turn out to be a critically important part of the cycle. Commercial fish harvest as it has been practiced for decades, since day one, is a recipe for a long slow degradation of the riverine and upland environment, which is exactly what is unfolding across the state and the entire North American Pacific coast.
The second lesson to be learned from the history of fish, on down the decades, is that salmon are resilient. They have stayed the course over centuries of evolution and have withstood no small amount of abuse and poor decisions in the course of commercial harvests. They did loose some big ones, like all of Europe’s rivers, and all of the North American eastern seaboard. But given a chance they will rebound.  They will repopulate streams from which they were blocked by dams if the streams are made accessible again.  In the course of time they will learn to make one thousand, even two thousand mile swims up current to populate stable high country nursery streams. This brings us to a modern Yukon River dilemma.
There is a relationship between fish structure and river structure. Salmon returning to a short coastal river only have the energy in the form of stored fat that is sufficient for their destination. The longer and more robust the river, the bigger and more robust the fish to match the challenge. This is the relationship that underscores the biggest rivers supplying the richest and most marketable salmon for human consumption. So we had the famed, and now extinct, Columbia River “June hogs;”  Copper River kings at 100$ a piece in the spring in west coast markets; Yukon River Chinook at 35 and 40 pounds apiece.  They were that size for a reason. They had a long way to go.
The sonar numbers for the Yukon River this year of 2022 are 44,581 hits at Pilot Station which is across from St. Mary’s within the tide range of salt water; 12,000 hits at Eagle River which is the Canadian Border; and 164 survivors at the Whitehorse hydroelectric dam fish ladder. Observers and managers are asking, what happened to the 32,581 individuals that never showed up at the border?
Remember the association of big rivers and their big fish. Since day one, mesh sizes and other techniques were used to target the big fish for quality and price, and over the decades there was a selection and culling process. Average weights of individual fish in Yukon and Kuskokwim runs have decreased by as much as half.  The genetically driven goals of natal stream locations in the extensive Canadian waterways remained constant in individual salmon, but the fish size dropped to, and below, the size needed to pack the energy to make the trip. Of the 44,000 starters, mortality due to insufficient energy took 32,000 of them in the relentless channels of the main stem Yukon. [4]
There is more to this picture. On and before day one, about half the total salmon production of the Yukon came out of Canadian water.[5] This means that the number of 44,581 hits needs, as an order of magnitude, at least a couple more zeros to the left of the decimal point to reflect historic run sizes, and match available natal stream opportunities. Accurate numbers for historic runs are a source of controversy, but oral history and some modern isotope research in lake sediments and tree rings[6]point toward significant numbers.[7]
This event of size-related fish mortality in association with the upper reaches of the Yukon biosphere is an existentially threatening tipping point. If there are no immature salmon with genetically determined natal locations from the rivers’ farthest reaches making their way to saltwater, then no adults will return to populate the upper river.  Associated with this dynamic is the loss of the marine nutrient cycle. We are witness to the collapse of the environmental source mechanism for the biggest fish, some 50% of the total Yukon River production, and it constitutes a long-term environmental catastrophe.
* * *
As you think and read about salmon for a while it’s not long before you feel like an immature fingerling getting washed down 2000 miles of river in water so turbid that you can’t see anything, all the while seeking food and somehow getting the trip imprinted on your nervous system well enough to be able to find your way back several years later. The river that is washing you down, dumps you out to an unaccustomed saltwater environment over a few hundred square miles of trackless, shallow, turbulent delta. This also you have to “remember” after several years of foraging and dodging predators as you make the rounds of portions of the 770,000 square mile Bering Sea.
The Bering Sea is one-of-a-kind in the world, being a “sea” at all only because ocean levels rose at the end of the last ice age and swamped the lowlands that had made eastern Siberia and the northwestern reaches of the North American continent a contiguous land mass. This is of interest to the story of Alaska salmon because the size and shallowness of the Bering make it biologically productive on a scale that defies description and is fundamentally unlike the biology characteristic of the world’s deep oceans.
If you get into the math of combinations you learn the most fundamental starting point and that is that it takes very few pieces all making random contact with each other to create immense numbers of possible combinations. That is what is going on in the Bering Sea. There are upwards of twenty or thirty species with sufficient biomass to support commercial or subsistence harvest and hundreds of species in the oceanic mix. All of these species have either prey or predator relationships with others, and over it all are fleets of catcher boats utilizing fishing gear that has developed and changed over the years. This commercial and personal use activity adds combinations to the mix of species interactions to the point that it is impossible to achieve an accurate analysis of the overall Bering Sea biosphere. In the history of commercial exploitation in the North Pacific and Bering Sea, which started in the age of sail, well before the availability of engine power, there are some real nightmares of gear types, gear loss, and vessel and human loss as well. Just one prolonged event was the saga of tangle nets for crab which caused destruction of by-catch species, and which were lost or abandoned by the dozen where they ghost fished, maybe for decades, maybe still to this day. Another bad one was open-ocean longlines that were deployed for miles and slaughtered species randomly from fish to mammals.
At present the technology of greatest concern is industrial-scale catcher processors that use trawls and net drags to take everything in the water column from top to bottom.  This technology is a heavy presence worldwide, and it is condemned worldwide without success. Billons of dollars of income potential are at play with this technology. Consequently many millions are spent in economic, political, and management regulation defense. On biological grounds the defensive arguments are pretty much all nonsense. Just the financial conflict of interest alone compromises the data and the science The biological chaos of the millions of pounds of harvest and millions of pounds of dozens of by-catch species makes the effects of untraceable combinations well beyond even approximate understanding.
For our purposes regarding the fish of northwestern rivers, even if the immature fish developing over several years in saltwater were not getting caught and discarded by the draggers, as they claim, against decades of documented evidence, the overall disruption of the Bering sea food web is enough to break the complex salmon cycle and result in the run failures that are today on record.  The disruption and collapse of prey availability in the Bering Sea is the other half of the double punch resulting in collapsing river runs and decreasing fish size.
The State of Alaska is saying they need more research to quantify this kind of analysis.  But there are too many combinations, its too complex, they will never achieve peer-reviewed quality knowledge before the last salmon becomes a memory of the storied good old days. There has to be a basic, overarching, philosophical change driving a new regulatory environment in Alaska fisheries. Without change of this magnitude, no indigenous child, no commercial fisherman of any race or culture, no citizen of Alaska will ever again ‘walk on fish.’
[1] Pacific Salmon, Ecology and Management, Food Supplies, pg 49
[2] Pacific Salmon, Ecology and Management, Food Supplies. . .pg 39, 40
[3] Finding the Mother Tree; S. Simard, pgs 290; 292; 295
[4] Bioenergetic Ontogeny: . . .Life-Cycle Growth and Survival of Salmon: Pacific Salmon, Ecology and Management, pages 57 - 58, et all.
[5] Pacific Salmon, Ecology and Management, Upper Yukon River Spawning populations, pg 25
[6] Finding the Mother Tree, S. Simard; pg 290: “An old cedar tree could hold a thousand-year record of salmon runs.”
[7] See Bruce Finney, ISU stable isotope lab; Bruce Finney, fifteen years of research in lake cores and isotopes, UAF, Fairbanks
#CaptainLarry

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Very informative! Thank you for sharing!

It never ends does it? SMDH!

Good read !!

Well worth reading till the end!

Shorten it up or nobody will read it

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