Alaska editorial: Salmon mysteries

This editorial first appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

A chum salmon just can’t replace a king salmon. But in a year when the king salmon barely showed up, it’s encouraging to see healthy chum runs in the Yukon River system this summer.

The abundance of chums should provide for people along the rivers who rely upon salmon for a good portion of their food during the winter months. We shouldn’t see a repeat of the disastrous years in the 1990s, when the chum runs crashed and people in the villages couldn’t even keep their dog teams fed.

There’s a reason chums are called dog salmon. Traditionally, kings have been the preferred salmon for people, while chums have provided for the dogs. However, chum salmon are usable in a pinch. So having lots of them is a good backup in a year such as this when the kings were so scarce.

According to figures from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the king run in the Yukon is winding down and probably will total only about 109,000 fish.

Meanwhile, the summer chum run was closing on 2 million. The fall chum run also is coming in strong, with about 1.3 million expected.

Since almost all the kings have passed upriver, subsistence fishing for chums is wide open on most of the Yukon. It remains closed only in the upper stretch, from the Fort Yukon area to the border, to let as many kings as possible reach spawning grounds in Canada.

The failure of the king run can’t be smoothed over with chums. Commercial fishing for kings was shut down this year. That will create hardship — the commercial king fishery provides cash, especially on the lower Yukon. And even the most devoted followers of today’s subsistence lifestyle must have cash for everything from guns to gasoline.

The chum runs are making up some of the loss. Commercial fishermen in the lower and middle Yukon caught a total of about 315,000 summer chums. Another 150,000 fall chums had been taken in the commercial fishery as of Sunday, and fishing will continue if the run remains strong.

But, at just 75 cents per pound, the chum price isn’t near what a king could bring. The fall chums are mixed with coho salmon, which are bringing $1 per pound but aren’t as numerous.

The poor king salmon returns on the Yukon system remain a mystery. And why are chum runs at the same time relatively healthy? Whatever the reason for the contrast, it is a welcome one this summer.


Thu, 01/19/2017 - 09:41

Letter: A pro-life presidency is something to be thankful for

​On Jan. 20, we will see the inauguration of a new president. From the pro-life perspective, this is something to be thankful for. That day represents the departure from the White House of one of the most pro-abortion presidents we have seen to date. His replacement is a man who has voiced support for a number of pro-life, pro-family initiatives that will protect the rights of the unborn and their mothers. Read more

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 09:22

My Turn: Alaska’s national parks need infrastructure support

In 2016, the National Park Service celebrated its centennial anniversary. 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of Denali National Park, one of the many crown jewels in Alaska’s collection of our national parks. These parks represent the very best and most treasured public lands in our country. As we hear about badly needed infrastructure improvements to our roads, bridges and utilities nationwide, it’s important to remember that our national parks are not immune to these challenges. Denali National Park alone faces an infrastructure repair backlog to roads and facilities of $53 million.

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Thu, 01/19/2017 - 09:22

My Turn: Reflecting on why I love Alaska

Gov. Bill Walker issued a proclamation designating 2017 as a “Year of History and Heritage” in recognition of Alaska’s sesquicentennial — the 150th year since Russia ceded its possessions and interests in Alaska to the United States. Gov. Walker’s proclamation encourages all Alaskans “to study, teach, reflect upon our past, and apply its lessons to a brighter, more inclusive future.”

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Thu, 01/19/2017 - 08:47

Outside Editorial: NATO and the EU: Mend them, don’t end them

The following editorial first appeared in the Chicago Tribune:

In lamenting President Barack Obama's foreign and military policies, Republicans have frequently offered a concise summary: "Our allies don't trust us, and our enemies don't fear us." They didn't imagine the day would come when the same might be said of a Republican president. But that's the prospect Donald Trump raises. Read more


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