Last updated: 5 november, 2010 - 15:12 GMT

The Americas

The Battle of King Salmon - part two

  • The Nushugak River winds through Bristol Bay in south-west Alaska. The salmon migrate downstream to their spawning grounds
    The Nushugak River winds through Bristol Bay in south-west Alaska. The salmon migrate downstream to their spawning grounds
  • Lewis Point Fish Camp on the Nushugak River, where Yupik families come to subsistence fish salmon during the summer
    Lewis Point Fish Camp on the Nushugak River, where Yupik families come to subsistence fish salmon during the summer
  • Timmy Wonhola, Yupik elder has subsistence fished and hunted all his life
    Timmy Wonhola, Yupik elder has subsistence fished and hunted all his life
  • The rivers become streams and brooks where the salmon will finally mate, spawn and die. The young salmon who grow from their eggs will live a while in a lake then head downstream to the sea. After a few years feeding and growing in the Pacific they will return to the same stream and the cycle will repeat
    The rivers become streams and brooks where the salmon will finally mate, spawn and die. The young salmon who grow from their eggs will live a while in a lake then head downstream to the sea. After a few years feeding and growing in the Pacific they will return to the same stream and the cycle will repeat
  • In this area vast deposits of gold and copper have been discovered. It is also the headwaters of many tributaries which flow into Bristol Bay
    In this area vast deposits of gold and copper have been discovered. It is also the headwaters of many tributaries which flow into Bristol Bay
  • The Pebble Mine is at "pre-feasibility stage" whilst a mining plan is being formulated. There are test-drilling sites throughout the area locating the mineral deposits. The Pebble Partnership promises to co-exist with the fishery if a mine plan goes ahead
    The Pebble Mine is at "pre-feasibility stage" whilst a mining plan is being formulated. There are test-drilling sites throughout the area locating the mineral deposits. The Pebble Partnership promises to co-exist with the fishery if a mine plan goes ahead
  • From left to right: James Wyatt-Tilby of the Anglo- American mining company (joint partner) and Mike Heatwole and Jane Whitsett of the Pebble Partnership survey the terrain
    From left to right: James Wyatt-Tilby of the Anglo- American mining company (joint partner) and Mike Heatwole and Jane Whitsett of the Pebble Partnership survey the terrain
  • Nick Rankin with the children of Lewis Point native fish camp. Behind them the sweat lodge and behind that the smoke house for the wild salmon.
    Nick Rankin with the children of Lewis Point native fish camp. Behind them the sweat lodge and behind that the smoke house for the wild salmon.
  • The proposed Pebble Mine has caused great controversy in the Bristol Bay area, pitting environmentalists and the fishing community against other local people who hope for economic opportunities from the mine.
    The proposed Pebble Mine has caused great controversy in the Bristol Bay area, pitting environmentalists and the fishing community against other local people who hope for economic opportunities from the mine.
  • Presenter Nick Rankin and producer Neil McCarthy wait for a light aircraft in Alaska. Flying is the most commonly used form of transport as there are very few roads in the area.
    Presenter Nick Rankin and producer Neil McCarthy wait for a light aircraft in Alaska. Flying is the most commonly used form of transport as there are very few roads in the area.

The wild salmon run in Alaska is the biggest of its kind.

Each year over 40 million fish leave the Pacific Ocean and fight their way up to the headwaters of mighty river systems where they mate, spawn and die.

The young salmon make their way out to sea again and, year after year, as the fish swim back to their birthplace, fishermen are there waiting for them.

For this two-part documentary, the BBC's Nick Rankin reports from Alaska during the wild salmon run and joins commercial and subsistence fishermen who live off this natural resource.

Part two

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Vast deposits of gold and copper have been discovered in the headwaters of Bristol Bay near the salmon spawning grounds.

Nick Rankin explores the implications of the proposed mining of these minerals for Alaska's main industry: salmon.

The issue is highly controversial, even more so after the recent Gulf oil disaster.

Conservationists, commercial fishermen and many native people fear that the massive open-pit mine will disrupt the salmon rivers and inevitably lead to contamination and the fish will not return to spawn.

The mining company and some of those living close to the proposed mine see development opportunities and wealth generation and vow to protect the environment.

What is the future for the Alaskan salmon, the king of fish?

Produced by Neil McCarthy and first broadcast on 5 November, 2010

Download other documentaries

More from this series

  • Fishermen battle it out in the great wild salmon run

  • Fighting the waves - and nets - on board an Alaskan commerical fishing boat during the greatest wild salmon run on earth

    WatchDuration: 03:42

  • The production challenges faced in making this series

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