Biologists Ponder New Ways to Boost King Salmon Population

Federal, state and university fisheries biologists determined to strengthen runs of king salmon in Alaska have wound up two days of meetings in Anchorage aimed at helping the state fill knowledge gaps on the fishery.

The Alaska Chinook Salmon Symposium, which attracted several hundred people, “is just one step in our process to improve our knowledge of Chinook salmon,” said Robert Clark, chief fisheries scientist for the state Division of Sport Fish. The goal now, Clark said is to take all the information gathered at the symposium to help complete the final “Alaska Chinook Salmon Knowledge Gaps and Needs” report by December.

Symposium panelists discussed abundance and productivity trends, Chinook stock assessment, ecology of these stocks in the marine environment, and the ecology and stock assessment of Chinook salmon in the marine environment.

King salmon are critically important to subsistence, commercial and sport anglers throughout Alaska. The recent downturn in productivity and abundance of Chinook salmon has created social and economic hardship across rural and urban areas of the state.

Clark said the participating fisheries biologists, commercial, sport and subsistence fishermen, and fishery managers made some very good points, as they considered a variety of subjects, including the role of hatcheries.

First of all, patterns in trends and abundance of Chinook salmon are not the same around the state. Second, early marine and first year overwinter survival are likely critical to Chinook salmon and near shore marine surveys are needed to better understand early marine survival, Clark said.

More local and traditional knowledge is needed to understand the context of the downturns too, he said.

In a draft report issued earlier in October, the state Department of Fish and Game identified 12 important Chinook salmon stock indicator stocks. They include these rivers: Copper, Karluk, Chignik, Nushagak, Unuk, Stikine, Taku, Chilkat, Susitna, Kenai, Kuskokwim and Yukon.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell said that agency would continue to accept public comment on the matter online through Nov. 8. Comments can be emailed to