Saturday, September 17, 2005

Everything you wanted to know about Russia, Run sizes

Many of you are like me, I think, in-depth knowledge of Alaska and all things Alaskan, but are curious about Alaska's neighbors too. So, in that vein, I pass along a hyper-link to the best site I've found on things of the Russian Federation.

The article you'll pull up by clicking on this hyper-link is of Murmansk. But all the regions, all the way to the Pacific Ocean, are listed in a menu on the left of the page. Just get out your map and find Nickolayevsk on the Amur River, near the mouth. This is the river that Captain Cook tried sail up but was stopped by a shoal of salmon!

I haven't heard of any sailors in Alaska ever running aground on a mass of salmon at the mouth of a river. I'm pretty sure Alaska's salmon runs will only increase in strength from the heavy stream fishing that fed the hundreds of canneries early in the 1900s. And the fish traps too, that blocked salmon migration past major headlands.

When I worked as a loan officer and the "economist" at CFAB, I thought that Alaska could sustain runs of 150 million fish a year. Now they are going over 200 million. And I know for a fact all the little creeks around Petersburg still need to recover by about 900 percent. Petersburg creek alone had all five species of salmon running up it, plus a big run of steelhead.

I'm afraid my great-grandfather had a lot to do with the steelhead runs declining. He had kids like my father camp up the creek and gillnet steelhead in the holes and salt them in barrels. Then, at least one winter, he shipped the barrels to Minnesota where he took the salt steelhead around to the farmhouses to sell them. Can you imagine driving an open horse-drawn wagon all around Minnesota in the winter!
Needless to say that didn't appeal to him, but at least he didn't lose heart at the prospect of it.

Maybe we need to look at how the pioneers did things, to give heart to some radical moves to save Alaskan fishing livelihoods.
But back to size of salmon runs. If all these little creeks that only have a small fraction of their original run size would completely bounce back, you might be looking at runs of 500 million salmon. Who knows.

Petersburg set a record this summer with dock deliveries of 2.5 million pounds in one day.
What's all that fish worth? Not much when you stuff it in a one pound can and sell it in Dollar Stores. The next generation of fishermen will have to figure out how to make it pay. And if the haves and the have-nots can work together there might be some hope for all the little fishing towns in Alaska.


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8:01 AM  

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