In recent years, returns of sockeye salmon from Bristol Bay have been enormous, but returns of salmon in other areas have declined. In this editorial, Katie Shears, a grade 11 student at Dillingham, looked at the impact of climate change on salmon and what it could mean for Bristol Bay.
Rising water temperatures due to the climate crisis could be the salmon’s last goodbye. A Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office report on salmon populations contained a cruel prediction: more than half of all salmon species are either threatened or endangered, and a quarter of them are now endangered. crisis.
Salmon are vital to Bristol Bay; many people depend on salmon for a living and to support themselves and their families. The importance of salmon to our communities is vital and its preservation is essential. Many factors can contribute to the decline in salmon numbers, most of which are linked to climate change.
Glaciers are melting at a rapid rate due to warming temperatures. Due to melting glaciers, the moment when cold water from glaciers flows into streams disrupts the natural cycle of salmon. Overall, the temperatures of the rivers and streams where our salmon live are expected to increase significantly over the next several years.
This increase directly affects the salmon cycle – in particular, spawning – which is a critical period of the cycle because in this cycle the next generation of salmon is produced. When the waters heat up, the salmon will need more oxygen because the warm water molecules move faster than colder waters, allowing more oxygen to escape from the water. A trip from the ocean to the house is hard enough, but it makes that trip impossible with added oxygen stress. Disrupting the life cycle of our salmon can lead to increased mortality, contributing to the death of a vital aspect of our precious culture.
The impact on salmon populations is just one example of how climate change is distorting fish populations around the world. Salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest are getting smaller; it will continue until people find a solution. Efforts to restore salmon are under consideration; all over Washington state they are trying to restore the watersheds, vegetation, and shorelines that provide shade for the waters. Washington is removing the obstacles in the hope that the salmon can make the difficult journey home.
Salmon is everything in Alaska. They always have been and always will be. But fishermen in many parts of the state are struggling. For example, the Chignik disaster in 2018 caused losses throughout their village. The salmon just weren’t coming back, the closest salmon was miles away. The villages of Chignik depended on salmon and they experienced another extremely weak return last year. And although in recent years the Bristol Bay salmon runs have returned in record numbers, our fish could still be next.
We, as people, are the source of climate change. Therefore, we should be held accountable for creating the solution. Salmon are dying, not yet here in Bristol Bay, but the likelihood is increasing every day. Dillingham is a beautiful place and I would hate to see the parishes that Chignik has encountered perform here in our house. Let’s find the solution to save our salmon before it’s too late.
This piece was written for an English class at Dillingham High School. Students chose to write either a personal essay, poem, or opinion piece for radio and the web. The opinions expressed here are entirely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of KDLG.
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