Bristol Bay, Alaska: A Peak Inside WWF Project Work

Bristol Bay Salmon

Bristol Bay, Alaska: A Peak Inside WWF Project Work

When it comes to wild salmon, there’s no doubt that Bristol Bay, Alaska is a unique and highly successful story in sustainability. To ensure ongoing success in the region, scientists on the ground work to carefully collect samples and record data for analysis. While data collection may not seem all that interesting at first glance, the sampling process is actually quite fascinating and provides some serious insight into how a variety of factors are affecting the region’s salmon population. These factors include climate change, invasive species, and mining. The sampling process is also a humane one.

Biologists work in teams of two to collect, record, and return fish to their streams using a method called electrofishing. One scientist carries a backpack shocker and uses electrodes placed in the water to briefly stun the fish to allow the quick measurements that will become invaluable insights for ensuring the sustainability of Bristol Bay. The second team member quickly captures the fish for examination. According to David Aplin WWF Director of Education and Outreach, “electroshocking is an art and a science, with the operator working carefully to deliver just enough of a charge to briefly stun the fish in a very small area without injuring the fish (or shocking themselves).”

Once collected, the two-member teams transfer the fish to biologists on the bank.

At this time, the species, age, and other characteristics are recorded. This information helps establish a baseline for future studies.

Once all necessary data is collected, fish are quickly returned to their stream of origin. According to Aplin, “It’s important to return these fish where they are found because Salmon are tuned into the unique chemistry of their natal streams. They head downstream and out to sea as Smolts after spending a year or two (depending on species) in fresh water. The mature salmon use their “noses” to locate the unique chemical signature of their home streams to complete their life cycles where they began.”

Wild Selections supports the ongoing sustainability success in Bristol Bay, Alaska. 13 cents from every can purchased goes directly to World Wildlife Fund project work, including the sampling process outlined above.

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