Are you concerned about where all our king salmon have gone? Have you been listening to the great many people attempting to convince you that the reasons for our missing king salmon are mysteriously lurking out there somewhere but can’t be precisely located? The reasons for our missing kings are more simple than some would have you understand. If you would like an instant explanation, here is how you may get it. When you encounter your next Alaska Department of Fisheries Management Person, try asking them the following basic question: What does it take to build a juvenile king salmon in the ocean? You will no doubt be shocked when you hear the response because most of these fisheries management people have no idea what it takes to build a king salmon in the ocean. If you are lucky you may get a response like “feed them a bunch of herring, sand lances or something else.” Your average ADF&G fisheries manager has great knowledge regarding what it takes to keep fisheries user groups happy but they will display very little knowledge regarding what it takes for our ocean to generate a king salmon. This lack of “ocean ADF&G king salmon concern” is a large part of the reason why we are seeing fewer and fewer king salmon.
The correct answer to the above question is “a great many crab larvae” because that is precisely what juvenile king salmon exclusively require to get them to where they are finally able to begin feeding on larger prey like herring or capelin (small fish). Unfortunately sockeye salmon also feed exclusively on these same crab larvae. It is even more unfortunate that these sockeye exclusively feed on extremely young crab larvae, which are less than 5 mm in size. It is even more unfortunate that juvenile king salmon happen to exclusively feed on older crab larvae which are greater than 17 mm in size. Are you beginning to see the conflict which is so mysterious? What would happen if you increased sockeye stocks by many millions of additional fish, while maintaining king salmon stock levels? The out come is predictable. It would be like viewing a group of people lining up to a cafeteria for lunch and suddenly a mob of rowdy line cutters jump in front of the group and get themselves served first. In this “marine cafeteria” the rowdy mob are sockeye salmon and they are basically line cutting our king salmon. As our ADF&G manage our fisheries to greatly expand (only sockeye stocks) more and more line cutting sockeyes displace more and more juvenile kings, until kings are actually being pushed backward away from where the food is located.
The situation is much more complex than what is described here but this is a basic explanation as to where many of our king salmon have gone. Deep within our ocean food web, king salmon are being substantially displaced by sockeye salmon. There are many other issues involved like king by-catch within commercial pollock and salmon fisheries and our decreasing ocean nutrient levels but how do you address them if juvenile kings are being starved to death? If you would like to read a more detailed explanation it is located at http://www.voy.com/177140/151.html?z=1