Record Salmon in One Place. Barely Any in Another. Alarm All Around.

This summer, fishers in the world’s largest wild salmon habitat pulled a record-breaking 65 million sockeye salmon from Alaska’s Bristol Bay, beating the 2018 record by more than three million fish.

But on the Yukon River, about 500 miles to the north, salmon were alarmingly absent. This summer’s chum run was the lowest on record, with only 153,000 fish counted in the river at the Pilot Station sonar — a stark contrast to the 1.7 million chum running in year’s past. The king salmon runs were also critically low this summer — the third lowest on record. The Yukon’s fall run is also shaping up to be sparse.

The disparity between the fisheries is concerning — a possible bellwether for the chaotic consequences of climate change; competition between wild and hatchery fish; and commercial fishing bycatch.