The importance of salmon

  • By Les Palmer
  • Thursday, August 4, 2016 7:52pm
  • Opinion

Ya gotta love a government that knows what’s important.

On May 8, Governor Walker signed a bill into law establishing August 10 of each year as Alaska Wild Salmon Day. On July 15, the Guv signed a proclamation making July 2016 BBQ Month.

What more could an Alaskan want?

I’m glad you asked. The law I’d like to see Governor Walker sign is the one that says the state of Alaska won’t consider any more proposals that involve strip mining in drainages that contain salmon streams.

It’s outrageous that we’re even talking to the Pebble people about strip mining in the Bristol Bay drainage, the most productive salmon region on earth. If our government allows this project to proceed, it may well prove to be one of the most destructive things that Man has ever done to this planet.

Another bad idea that should be aborted is the plan to strip mine for coal through the Chuitna River, a salmon stream on the west side of Cook Inlet. A Delaware-based company plans to sell the coal to China, where people are already choking on air fouled by smoke from coal-fired furnaces.

Of course, jobs and a healthy economy are important, but how can anyone with a conscience even consider these outrageous projects?

The history of salmon is replete with such outrages. The dark side of civilization first decimated the Atlantic salmon runs of Europe. Following the European discovery of America, industrialization and over-fishing pretty much wiped out the Atlantic salmon runs in eastern North America. Finally, human industry and urbanization have been the downfall of salmon in the Pacific Northwest, where several runs are now extinct. Only in Alaska do salmon continue to thrive in anything like they did in years past.

Unfortunately, Alaska is leaving a time of economic growth and entering a period when some people will accept most any scheme that promises to bring a few bucks into the state. Trouble is, many of these schemes pose risks to salmon.

What can we do to help protect Alaska’s salmon?

•Learn more about salmon by reading “King of Fish — The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon.” This book, available in paperback and on Kindle, tells the story of salmon, not only what has happened to them, but what is being done to save them. It tells how easy it is to lose salmon and how difficult it is to bring them back. On the positive side, it contains ideas that will help us do what’s necessary to continue to have sustainable fishing.

•Make yourself more “salmon aware” by visiting, where you can read three chapters of “Made of Salmon — Alaska Stories from the Salmon Project,” for free. Buy the book, and when you’ve finished reading it, pass it on. While visiting the Salmon Project, sign the pledge to declare your life a salmon life.

• Become an activist. You don’t have to be a Greenie, a Democrat or a bunny hugger to be a salmon activist. Become active in local government, where rules are made that can either protect or harm salmon habitat. Join the Kenai Watershed Forum or Cook Inletkeeper and volunteer for a project. These non-profit organizations do much to help keep our salmon sustainable in Cook Inlet, and they depend on donations and volunteers. If salmon are to be in our future, Alaskans of all kinds will have to become activists.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Do something!

Not that there was anything wrong with making July BBQ Month, or with making Aug. 10 Alaska Salmon Day. However, it’s going to take more than that to ensure that salmon are in our future.

Les Palmer can be reached at

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