University of Georgia Researchers to Study Declining Salmon Populations in Alaska

The health of global fish stocks is of increasing concern across the world. According to a study published in Science, popular fishing stocks will be entirely wiped out by 2048, if current fishing and environmental practices are not modified in significant ways.

For most, those findings represent only an abstract, and is too often the case, abstracts haven’t gone very far in pushing people to action. In Alaska, however, declining fish populations are of mammoth concern; the Alaskan fishing industry supports more than 78,000 jobs in the Last Frontier, generating more than $5.8 billion in revenue for the state and its people each year. Needless to say, declining fish populations mean a bit more to Alaskans.

Luckily, UGA Today, a publication from the University of Georgia, reports that a $500,000 grant will go toward studying the causes of the continued collapse of one of Alaska’s most important fish. The Chinook salmon, classically one of the state’s most popular fish, both among commercial and recreational fishers, has seen staggering decline in the last few years. Gary Grossman, professor at UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, and Jason Neuswanger, a post-doctoral researcher, will investigate why Chinook aren’t surviving very long after making their way out of Alaskan streams and rivers and into the Pacific. The half-million dollar grant from the North Pacific Research Board will hopefully yield answers for Grossman and Neuswanger, not to mention the tens of thousands of Alaskans who will rely on this valuable live crop for generations to come.

Chinook Aren’t the Only Salmon in Decline
Even if UGA research yields an answer to the woes of Chinook salmon, it’s unlikely Alaskan fishers will breathe easy. The giant king salmon, the state fish of Alaska, has been banned from commercial and recreational fishing since May of this year. This ban followed emergency funding from Congress of $21 million in February to help king and Chinook stocks recover. So far, the efforts funded by that $21 million have failed to yield results. In short, Alaskan salmon stocks, like those almost everywhere else in the world, have reached a critical tipping point.

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