Fishtory | The Saga Of Alaskan Salmon


Pacific salmon play a vital part of our worlds ecology. Over 22 different species feed off the bounty of the salmon‘s epic yearly migration. For millions of years, the salmon ruled the pacific ocean and populations flourished thought out the Pacific Rim. Native cultures revered these massive returns as gifts and celebrated each season’s salmon return with art and ceremony. In 1779, Captain James Cook discovered the Columbia River and its salmon bounty while searching for the inside passage. Once the Europeans hit the west coast, large-scale salmon exporting by the Hudson Bay Fishery ramped up. In 1876, the first salmon cannery opened in Astoria and there were 70 more along the coast by the turn of the century.

Salmon production vigorously continued along the coast well in the next century. By the mid 1900’s, it was obvious that the salmon stocks were in serious decline. Mismanagement by the federal government was blamed for most of the problems, then in 1959 Alaska became a state and took control of the fisheries. New management techniques included escapement, which ensured that sufficient numbers of salmon escape capture to ensure the health of future spawning generations. Even with new measures in effect, salmon stocks declined to record lows in 1972. The Limited Entry Act passed in 1973 to regulate the overall number of permits. This system has proved successful in rebuilding the salmon runs to today’s epic standards.

The history of salmon is full of flaws and mistakes, yet the saga of salmon defines the west coast. This majestic fish still dominates Pacific waters and provides the world with one of nature’s greatest proteins. Salmon have survived through all the hardships man has delivered over the years and remains one of natures greatest events. Next time salmon is on your dinner plate, think of the history of a truly amazing fish.

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