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Arctic Salmon 1: the last great salmon run

  • 15 Jul 2008
  • Author: Grant Sonnex

Most of the great salmon runs up the west coast of North America have disappeared over the years as river valleys have been deforested, dammed, and degraded. Just one remains - the last great Pacific salmon migration. And that is up in Dillingham, Alaska. Our reporter, Grant Sonnex, is there to follow 40 million salmon from the sea to the spawning grounds.

Report information

This is a wild place. It's not even at the end of the road, you can only get here by plane or boat. But at this time of year plenty of people do make the journey and the population of the little town of Dillingham doubles to around 5000 people. And they have all come because of the salmon. Some of them work ridiculously long hours in the salmon canning factory. Some of them fly inland across the tundra and black spruce forests up the rivers to go fly fishing for salmon.

Dillingham sits near the end of Nushagak Bay which leads out into the enormous Bristol Bay proper. Then you've got the Aleutian islands stretching around the Bering Sea out towards Siberia. It's like a giant funnel bringing the salmon up into the river systems on their migration to the streams where they were born and where they themselves will lay and fertilise eggs and then die. But before they make it up there they have to run the gauntlet of Beluga whales, seals and sea lions and hundreds and hundreds of fishing nets.

Further Reading:

Next report: Setting the nets to catch the Salmon
Save Bristol Bay

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