The number of northern fur seals in the Bering Sea has dropped by around 70% since the 1970s.
The salmon runs are central to people’s lives in many ways. The economy has developed around the commercial fishery, and fish also provide food for the winter.
Democrats in the U.S. House want to use the budget process to reverse the 2017 law requiring oil lease sales in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Subsistence users across the region are feeling the impacts of the die-off.
For Yukon River families, chum is particularly important. Chinook salmon have been low for decades, but chum were the fish they could depend on.
Seal meat makes up a good portion of what’s in subsistence hunters’ freezers in Kotzebue. But the sea ice the seals haul out on is diminishing, and new research shows that’s shortening the window to hunt seals.
With salmon runs low and commercial fishing closed, the Yukon River’s only fish processor is offering few jobs this summer.
To keep up local employment, Kwik’pak Fisheries pivoted last summer when the chum runs started dropping. If workers couldn’t catch food, they could grow it.
Ocean waters are a few degrees warmer in the Gulf of Alaska, and that slight difference has challenged fish populations south of Bristol Bay.
Subsistence fishing on the lower Yukon River is closed for both king and chum salmon. Residents who usually depend heavily on the fish are pivoting toward other ways to get meat.