Even during the days of kings, and certainly before that, salmon legislation has been a key step to a mindful stewardship of nature's bountiful fish. Salmon legislation has also been an underlying motif of this trip, as it has resurfaced in many conversations and acts as a safety net to keep these fish thriving. King Richard the First (Lionheart) implemented an ordinance into the English code stating that for salmon passage... "There must be left in all weirs a gap of such size that a 3-year old pig might turn around in it without touching its snout or tail." Due to the preemptive thoughts of leaders like this, we now have support systems in place to protect the native salmon populations.
Sustainable commercial fishing efforts in Alaska have made great strides to protect these species, but there is still more that needs to be done to ensure these fish are not lost. At the forefront of this endeavor is the Alaska Department of Fish and Game with the responsibility to create regulations and promote stewardship of fish for the people. For any meaningful results to their legislation, it is important they have a strong connection and coordination with the local fishermen. Shannon Carroll of Alaska Marine Conservation Council representative got down to the nitty gritty, leaving us with a major take away. Each season, an estimated 50% of the salmon populations are allowed to pass from the oceans to the rivers while the other 50% are there for taking by the commercial fishing market.
Amid our many adventures, the 5 Rivers Odyssey team had the pleasure of meeting with former Alaska State Senate President Rick Halford whom delivered a heart-felt speech at the Trout Unlimited Alaska Headquarters. Rick, formerly a stalwart voice for industry expansion in Alaska, has adapted his views over time on long term environmental impacts influencing supply. He is now a voice for responsible development and has pegged the Pebble Mine project as a short-term win for a select few and a long-term loss for the Alaskan community both environmentally and economically.
Similarly, the Eklutna Dam removal project has been a collaborative success spearheaded by The Conservation Corporation (TCC) in conjunction with the native Eklutna shareholders and TU at the front lines. To gain a deeper insight about the project, we were connected with Bradford Meiklejohn, Alaska State Director of TCC, to discuss the Eklutna Dam removal project from his point of view. Brad was inspired to remove the dam when watching the documentary Damnation, which advocates for dam removal. With this spark fresh in his mind, the Eklutna Dam removal project took off with local zeal. This project is the epitome of 'think globally act locally'. Now that the dam is removed, the challenge lies in restoring the flows of the Eklutna River to pre-dam flow levels. As an avid float boater himself, he would like to one day float the Eklutna River when the cubic feet per second (CFS) of water entering the Eklutna River is increased and a close to traditional riparian zone is reestablished. This project also makes the Eklutna Lake accessible to anadromous fish whom were once thwarted on their journey upstream. Finally, increased flows would also reconnect the estranged Kokanee (a land-locked sockeye salmon) of the Eklutna Lake to the ocean once more.
Rising to that challenge, TCC has consulted a team of hydrologists and fisheries biologists that include some TU staff, which have successfully surveyed the area and are now engaged in discussions with the Anchorage Water and Waste Water Utility (AWWU) to determine the appropriate amount of water flow needed through the Eklutna River. To help raise awareness, conservationist and film maker Ryan Peterson is composing a documentary on the Eklutna Dam removal site, so be on the look-out for it!
Fortunately, there are many ways you can get involved both directly and indirectly in salmon legislation. First, you can Vote with Your Fork, meaning opt to eat wild caught salmon instead of hatchery raised. When you do this, not only will your taste buds thank you, but so will the small business owners and native villages that are fishing in remote places with high operating costs for quality wild salmon. Second, you may donate to non for profit organizations such as TU or The Conservation Corporation and make a difference on the front lines of legislation and documentation. Third, reach out and/or volunteer with a community of like-minded individuals to gather support. Finally, call your representatives! Your representatives were elected to embody the collective voice of the people, so by giving them a call, sending an email, or even just waving to them on the street makes a big impact on the message they deliver when in session guiding the legislation of our country.
Mac's Fun Fact:
80% of Anchorage, AK potable water comes from Eklutna Lake.
Links to check out:
Eklutna Dam Removal Project:
Stand For Salmon:
Save Bistol Bay: