The Chinook Salmon are disappearing and whole tribes in the Yukon , who depended on Salmon for their food and heritage are in despair. They’re forced to purchase frozen salmon from Alaska and eat chum. Their culture is at risk.
To avoid extinction, their now breeding salmon. Let’s hope they’re successful, they’re culture and our lives depend upon Salmon survival.
As many as 450,000 chinook once entered the mouth of the Yukon River each summer, after spending five years in the Bering Sea, says Teslin Tlingit elder Carl Sidney, who attended the Tatchun salmon ceremony. Once in the river, salmon stop eating and rely on their fat reserves to get them through one of the longest, most formidable freshwater migrations on the planet. The Yukon River stretches 3,200km (2,000 miles) across Alaska, into the Yukon territory and south to its headwaters. About 200,000 chinook would push upriver to Canada each year, darting past predators and fishing nets to spawn in the streams where they once hatched.
Then, after dwindling for decades, salmon stocks suddenly plummeted. Last year, little more than 32,000 chinook made it upriver to Canada. This year, it was fewer than 12,000. No one knows precisely what caused the crash, though a number of factors are likely at play, from problems in the ocean, including commercial overfishing and bycatch, to climate breakdown, disease and competition from hatchery fish.
The estimated number of Canadian chinook salmon in the Yukon River fell to 32,970 in 2021
Guardian graphic. Source: Alaska Department of Fish and Game
The impact of growing up without salmon is affecting a whole generation, says Sidney. As a boy, his family caught 100lb (45kg) chinook that weighed twice as much as he did. In a week, they’d harvest enough fish to feed five families for a year. “I was pretty much raised on the land, by the land, and salmon were one of the staple diets of our people.”