“The bears, eagles, and trees here in Southeast are the salmon […] These forests are where the ocean comes to die–and to be reborn.”
The Salmon in the Trees by Amy Gulick
If you’ve ever been to Southeast Alaska in the late summer, you know that it’s just teeming with life. Bears are out. Birds are flocking to the skies. Whale spouts aren’t difficult to spot. Snow-capped mountains, endless bays and inlets fill the landscape. The rivers are full of salmon returning to spawn. And these salmon are precisely the reason behind all of the other life that comes out to play during the Alaska summer.
The salmon are the fertilizer upon which all other things grow. As a keystone species in the Tongass Rainforest in Southeast Alaska, salmon bring marine nutrients inland and provide an important food resource for a variety of animals. They also increase the productivity of nearby plants and forests. Mammals from mice to grizzly bears feast on spawning salmon. So do bald eagles and ravens, as do many other birds.Birds and mammals fly off with or drag carcasses into surrounding forests, bringing marine-derived nutrients for the forests around salmon-bearing streams, which tend to be much healthier when salmon are present. 137 species in the Tongass Rainforest depend on wild salmon!
Wild Alaska salmon is the canary in the coal mine for the entire region. Wild salmon is the pulse of places like the Tongass Rain Forest in Southeast Alaska. And eating wild salmon caught by small boat fishermen from Southeast Alaska supports these coastal communities and ecosystems.
Salmon, like other wild seafood, is the last commercially available wild meat. Watching a salmon jump up a ten-foot waterfall illustrates the wildness that’s part of us. It’s the pure joy. Pure life in its most elemental form. When we eat this wild salmon, we’re being infused with this wild energy. That is the essence of wild Alaska salmon.
Despite thriving salmon fisheries in Alaska that could easily feed the entirety of the nation and then some, more than three-quarters of it is exported. We, as Americans, are not getting our recommended 2-3 heart-healthy seafood servings per week, while Alaska is literally the wild seafood breadbasket of the world. The good stuff literally swims away.