Alaska is a place of many extremes. It’s brutally cold, almost incomprehensibly massive, and its wildlife seems to revolve around the sudden runs of salmon that have made the state famous.
Bristol Bay is arguably Alaska’s most well-known salmon fishery. The Yukon River isn’t quite the tourist draw, but it’s just as important to survival as Bristol Bay. Native tribes and a few smaller towns dotted along the Yukon depend on its runs of chum and chinook salmon for food and jobs.
However, while Bristol Bay experienced a record-breaking year of sockeye salmon returns (over 65 million salmon came to the bay to spawn) the Yukon is seeing historic lows in chum and chinook numbers.
The wild swings are emblematic of Alaska’s wild nature, but only to a point. Variations are normal, but sudden dips like this threaten livelihoods and traditions that date back beyond memory.
You can read more about the swings in salmon populations here.