Symposium Spotlights Challenges Related to Decline in Salmon Runs

The impact of resource development, fish passage in streams
and much more came under discussion Nov. 7-8 as stakeholders in Alaska’s salmon
fisheries reshaped priorities for habitat improvement in the state’s
Matanuska-Susitna Basin.
The good news, according to keynote speaker Bob Lackey, a
fisheries science professor at Oregon State University, is Alaska has greater
potential than other areas of the country for keeping and restoring habitat.
But development is one of the greatest dangers, said Lackey, a Fellow of the
American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists. Lackey joined federal and
state fisheries biologists, conservationists and other stakeholders in helping
to revise the Matanuska-Susitna Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership’s 2008
strategic plan, whose priorities will be funded through a variety of federal
and state funds.
Corinne Smith of The Nature Conservancy noted that over the
past five years much has happened in the Mat-Su Basin, including continued
population growth and several proposed large-scale resource development
projects. Meanwhile salmon populations have been listed as stocks of concern
and the state has closed fisheries each summer, she said.
Others among the several dozen in attendance said they found
the exchange of information and networking opportunities very valuable, as
other areas of the state are subject to some of the same challenges for salmon
Cecil Rich of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Tim Troll of
the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, and Bruce Knowles, who chairs the Mat-Su
Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission, praised continuing efforts to replace
culverts blocking fish passage to streams in the Mat-Su, which attracts thousands
of sport fishermen. Rich said that over the past five years more than 80
culverts had been replaced, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Rich is the federal agency’s coordinator for national fish
habitat partnerships, fish passage programs and invasive species programs. He
updated symposium participants on efforts to halt the spread of the invasive
aquatic plant Elodea.
Much discussion also turned to the impact of off-road
vehicle traffic, which is rampant in the valley, on stream crossings, which has
degraded fish habitat.
More information on the symposium is at