For decades, returns of Chinook — or “King” — salmon have been declining around Alaska. But nowhere is the crash proving more dramatic than in the Lower Yukon region, where the Indigenous villages are some of the poorest communities in the country.
People depend heavily on salmon, both for their household diets and for the local economy. But the declines in this vital species are making a precarious situation untenable.
This year, things are even worse. Not only have the King runs been dismal, but even the secondary species people depend on as a backup to fill their freezers are barely present. This means fewer opportunities for folks to earn cash in commercial fishing, and that people are facing bleak prospects for food security this winter.
Explanations for what’s happening abound. But the fact is, no one really knows what is happening with the Kings once they leave their rivers for the oceanic expanse.