Where We Work
Alaska is one the most extensive and intact wild salmon strongholds on the planet.
AlaskaNorth America Program
Wild Salmon Center's Alaska Program is an increasingly vital component of the organization's North America Program. Alaska is one of the most extensive and intact wild salmon strongholds on the planet, with nearly 60,000 miles of coastline and thousands of salmon streams supporting thriving aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Bears, eagles, wolves, seals, whales, and many other species that are an integral part of the Alaskan landscape depend on salmon for their survival. In a place where only 1% of the landscape has been permanently altered by human activity, there exists a unique opportunity to safeguard Alaska's outstanding wild salmon populations and the healthy river systems that support them.
Promoting Sustainable Fisheries and Preserving a Way of Life
The Pacific Coast of North America was once one of the most important salmon producing regions on Earth. But 150 years of habitat loss, damming, overfishing, and pressures from hatcheries have reduced wild salmon and steelhead runs south of the Canadian border to less than 5% of their historic levels. Alaska, however, took a different path. After statehood in 1959, Alaska established actively managed salmon programs to safeguard what had become a way of life. The cultural, economic and ecological value of salmon is enshrined in the State constitution, and Alaska remains a bastion of wild salmon abundance and diversity—accounting for nearly half of wild salmon in the North Pacific.
Alaska's success is due primarily to a strong sustained yield principle that places escapement—salmon that return to their spawning stream to reproduce—as the highest management priority. On-site biologists have the authority to respond to real-time escapement and fishery performance data, and an open public regulatory process facilitates resolution of allocation disputes and aids the development of effective management plans.
More than half of all Alaskans fish for sport or personal use, and many families make their living by guiding, housing, and equipping visitors who come to fish for salmon or view the wildlife that depend on salmon. In many areas of the state, salmon are a dietary staple for residents, particularly Native peoples. More than 15,000 families in all regions of rural Alaska harvest salmon for subsistence. The state's commercial fisheries provide more jobs than any other industry, regularly harvesting more than 100 million salmon a year. Simply put, Alaska’s ecological, economic, and cultural diversity is derived in large part from its robust wild salmon runs.
Safeguarding Bristol Bay
Despite the high value placed on Alaska's salmon resources, serious and rapidly mounting threats are facing Alaska’s wild salmon ecosystems and the communities that depend on them. These threats include intensive resource extraction—open pit mining, oil and gas exploration and development, dam building and timber harvest—in environmentally sensitive areas and fragile wild salmon ecosystems.
One of the greatest threats to Alaska's salmon resources is the proposed Pebble Mine. If constructed, it would be the world's second largest copper/gold/molybdenum mine developed in the headwaters of one of the most productive salmon ecosystems in the world—the Bristol Bay watershed. The proposed Pebble Mine and its infrastructure, including what would become the world's largest dam to hold up to 10 billion tons of toxic tailings, pose enormous challenges to Bristol Bay's world-class wild fisheries, the region's robust salmon economy, and to subsistence-based lifestyles for local communities.
Bristol Bay and its primary tributaries, the Nushagak and Kvichak rivers, are home to strong, healthy runs of Chinook, coho, chum, and pink salmon, and more than half of the world's wild sockeye salmon runs. These extraordinary wild salmon populations and the biodiversity they support make the Bristol Bay region one of the most globally significant wild salmon ecosystems on the planet. Wild Salmon Center has developed a technical report that examines the threats posed to Bristol Bay's wild salmon fisheries by the Pebble Mine project. View the report.