KODIAK — A Kodiak woman is leading a study to find out why Alaskans love salmon.
The Salmon Project, still in an exploratory phase, aims to find out about the deep connections Alaskans have with wild salmon.
“We wanted to understand how it relates to people’s lives and what values were associated with salmon fishing, salmon viewing or salmon eating,” project organizer Erin Harrington said.
Harrington is leading the investigation to figure out whether Alaskans are interested in being united in talking about salmon and whether or not a shared effort could make a difference for the resource.
“The Salmon Project started from the idea that pretty much every Alaskan has a strong personal connection to salmon,” she said. “That was sort of common wisdom, but not necessarily verified or tested. It also started with the idea that every Alaskan wants future generations to use salmon in the same ways they can today.”
Harrington has spent most of her life entrenched in and around fisheries and fishing communities. She holds a master’s degree in seafood marketing and economics, and has spent years doing fisheries consulting work in Kodiak and Juneau. Last year a group approached her to lead the Salmon Project investigation.
The project kicked off earlier this year by conducting a series of public opinion research. DHM Research came up with 11 focus groups in eight rural and urban communities that surveyed more than 2,000 Alaskans.
Based on the research Harrington learned that three-quarters of Alaskans consider themselves to be personally connected to salmon, and of those people, one-half consider themselves to have a strong personal connection to salmon.
“That’s pretty powerful,” she said.
After the initial research, Harrington set about designing a public opinion research process that is ongoing.
Part of that process includes engaging with Alaskans via the Salmon Project website www.salmonlove.org and social media.
The project is currently collecting information about connections to salmon by asking Alaskans to take the Salmon Love survey, which measures where they fall on the salmon love spectrum — from fishing for salmon to just enjoying eating it.
“People can begin to tell us about the ways they love salmon,” Harrington said. “In the process of doing that it continues to inform the question of how important is this to people, how much do they really care.”
People who share their experiences via the survey will be entered to win fish-related prizes like a grill, vacuum sealer and more. The survey can be accessed at www.salmonlove.org/sweepstakes. The sweepstakes is open through the end of September.
Harrington said during her initial research she found people also weren’t sure where to get accurate information about salmon. The Salmon Project’s website provides information to teach people to “practice safe salmon” by learning about salmon life cycles, habitats, and caring for their catch.
Harrington hopes to have the feasibility assessment completed by the end of the year, at which point she’ll have a sense on whether to recommend proceeding with the project or not.
People can engage in the project via the website or social media. Harrington said people should reach out to her to share stories or ask questions. Visit www.salmonlove.org for more information.