Alaskan Warming Waters Suspected in Massive Die Off of Salmon

Photo courtesy Sophia Katchatag, Community Coordinator for the Native Village of Shaktoolik

Jones says the main drivers are most likely higher water temperatures and a high concentration of fish

Anchorage Daily News - July 2019

NOME — Norton Sound residents have reported salmon die-offs in unusually large numbers during the last week.

According to the Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., dead pre-spawned pink salmon were found in multiple river systems last weekend.

The corporation’s fisheries director, Wes Jones, says the numbers of dead humpies being reported are larger than what’s normally seen in the Norton Sound region, spread out across several communities from east to west.

“There’s been reports all the way from here (Unalakleet) in Eastern Norton Sound all the way over to the Nome area. And it’s a very widespread area. The big change is that it appears that it is a much bigger event happening in eastern Norton Sound than what you’re seeing as you get closer to the Nome area.”

One of those reports came from Sophia Katchatag, the community coordinator for the Native Village of Shaktoolik. On Tuesday evening, Katchatag took her family up the Shaktoolik River, to a place called Jink-wok, to swim and cool off from the hot weather. She found a creek with “one area completely filled with dead pinks floating on top of the river.”

Katchatag didn’t pick any of them up, and she doesn’t intend to eat them, either.

Based on Katchatag’s observations, they looked to be healthy fish without signs of disease. She said she’s never seen so many humpies dying before it’s naturally time for them to spawn out.

There are multiple possible explanations for the salmon die-offs, but Jones says the main drivers are most likely higher water temperatures and a high concentration of fish. According to Jones, the Shaktoolik River weir counted about a million pinks through the river on Wednesday alone. That amount is almost double the number of pink salmon previously recorded for that date in the river. ...
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