Why the shrinking weights?

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, August 10, 2005

With the conclusion of the annual August salmon derby, I couldn't help but notice that the weight of the winning fish through the years seems to have declined quite a bit. So, taking the published (Juneau Empire Derby edition) list of fish that won each derby since 1947, I averaged the winners into five year groupings to see if that would produce a more user-friendly view of the decline in weight. Following is that listing:

Years - average weight

1947 to 1951 - 40 lb. 13 oz.

1952 to 1956 - 47 lb. 6 oz.

1957 to 1961 - 48 lb.

1962 to 1966 - 40 lb. 12 oz.

1967 to 1971 - 45 lb. 9 oz.

1972 to 1976 - 42 lb. 10 oz.

1977 to 1981 - 33 lb. 11 oz.

1982 to 1986 - 34 lb. 10 oz.

1987 to 1991 - 39 lb.

1992 to 1996 - 33 lb. 3 oz.

1997 to 2001 - 32 lb. 9 oz.

2002 to 2005 - 32 lb. 4 oz.

As can be seen, the average weight has declined over the years of the derby since its inception in 1947. Why that would be I have no idea and would encourage speculation and theories here in the paper that might explain this. For instance, I would think that there were a lot more people competing for fish now than 40 or 50 years back, and thus the average weight might be expected to increase because there would be more fish caught. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Also, it would appear that the average weight of the winning fish declined nearly 10 pounds in the 1970s. Does anyone have a theory about that? Since salmon fatten up out in the ocean, is this an indication that there's less food in the ocean for the salmon to grow? And if there was a decline in the 1970s, was there some change in the ocean feeding patterns of salmon or in ocean habitat in the 1970s that might explain the lower weights? I'm just speculating, but there must be some reason behind this, don't you think?

Steve Wolf

Juneau



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