Wednesday, November 14, 2012

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 habitat.

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

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