For Yukon River families, chum is particularly important. Chinook salmon have been low for decades, but chum were the fish they could depend on.
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.
The Yukon River has seen its worst summer chum salmon run on record, and its third-worst chinook run.
Low runs have meant no subsistence fishing for king or chum salmon on the Yukon River this summer.
The goal is to keep the business operating and workers employed, so Kwik’Pak Fisheries in Emmonak is diversifying its business by building greenhouses right next to its fish processing plant.
With the month-and-a-half summer fishery compressed to less than two weeks, there was no room for error. But when the fishery finally opened, a series of unfortunate events hit.
Fishermen are selling more salmon than the Yukon River’s only buyer can handle. Record-breaking sales Monday closed a commercial opening for fishermen upriver.
If Emmonak is granted or loaned the requested $750,000, Moore said the city will rebuild critical infrastructure before the upcoming fishing season.
Without emergency aid, Emmonak City Manager Martin Moore said last month’s fire damage could cripple the area’s economy.