As the weather is warming up and the salmon start heading upriver to spawn in the Kuskokwim, Georgetown and other communities are in conservation mode to protect the Chinook and other salmon species for today and future generations. If you are interested in learning about other ways to support the salmon, check out the LEO Network.

The LEO Network is a powerful tool developed by Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) as a platform to share information and raise awareness about the climate and environmental change. LEO includes observations from around the world and you can contribute too!

Here is how LEO works:LEO_Network

  • Observe something out of the ordinary:

-Salmon aren’t running when they should be or large numbers of salmon running
-Salmon have parasites or looks strange
-Salmon are showing up in fish weirs, but not in nets
-Or other out of the ordinary experiences (e.g. extreme weather, unusual animals, etc.)

  • Report it! There are several options:

-Sign up with LEO Network and report it online or through your phone’s LEO app  (currently supported for iPhones, will update if added to Google Play). App Store
-Write up what you saw, include pictures (if possible), and email them to me at meredith.witte@georgetowntc.com so I can help you report it.
-Post it to Georgetown’s Facebook Page so we can see it and with your permission, notify the LEO Network.

  • LEO Network officials review the post and reach out to experts to explain the observation.

-LEO reaches out to ADF&G, fish biologists, professors at universities, or other subject matter experts to find out more information about the reported observation.

  • LEO shares information to observer and publically with observer network to document and increase awareness about event.

If you are interested, here are some examples of salmon observations from the past:

Salmon Example 1.PNG
Kitchivik River – Photo by Mike Brubaker

Toby Anungazuk Jr. writes: The permafrost is thawing on the river banks and has caused a lot of erosion since about 2007. The bank has collapsed causing the channel to be blocked with dirt and small islands of plants. The water is much dirtier then it usually is. It used to be clear and you could see the fish. In 2007 the water was usually the color of tea. Now it is more often like coffee. The salmon is late coming into the river this year. There are also fewer salmon. I am wondering if they are waiting for the water to clear before they come into the river. We are monitoring river conditions using a Hobo logger so hopefully, we will have good data soon. We are also concerned about the water used by camps for drinking and by people who haul water from the river for their home use. There are a lot more big willow now in the river and also a lot more beaver.

LEO says:
This observation will be forwarded to the salmon research community in Alaska with the intent of learning more about the relationships between water quality and salmon and other fish in Arctic rivers. It will also be shared with Norton Sound Health Corporation regards beaver and prevention of waterborne illness in rivers used by residents for drinking water.


Salmon Example 3
PC: C Prince

Observation: A local resident cleaning fish observed a chum salmon with pus draining from the flesh of the fish. Charles writes, the salmons backbone and meat of the fish carcass have been placed into a freezer. C. Prince, for local resident.

Alaska Department of Fish & Game Consult: Ted Meyer, State Fish Pathologist writes, “Based on the photo there appears to be a long linear-shaped abscess in the dorsal musculature of the affected chum salmon. The lesion is probably due to a bacterial infection, possibly introduced from a piercing type wound maybe caused by a predator or a gaff or spear.”

  • T. Meyer, ADF&G writes, “A probable abscess renders this fish likely not fit for human consumption so it should be discarded.”

Observer Comment: Based on this for future references, should we just take pictures and discard the fish? C. PrinceResource: Alaska Department of Fish and GameCommon Diseases of Wild and Cultured Fishes in Alaska, a good reference for learning about illness in salmon provided by the, Fish Pathology Laboratory.


Salmon Example 4
Estuary up head King Cove Lagoon (Photo by Jane Mack, King Cove)

Desirae Roehl and Jane Mack write, At the end of August, my family and I drove to Whittier and were happy to see so many pink salmon in the creeks. Over the next several days, salmon abundance was brought up in numerous conversations and I noticed many family and friends posting photos and videos on Facebook. My aunt Jane Mack from King Cove snapped the associated photo and said, “there were so many humpies (pink salmon) and fish, in general, this year that they were spawning all along the beach from the Rams to the Lagoon. It was amazing to watch. The creeks were so full – I bet the oxygen levels weren’t so good for them though.” It’s not typical for the salmon to spawn along the beaches, but figure they had no choice if they were unable to fit in the creek.

LEO says: About 75 miles ENE of King Cove on the south side of the Alaska Peninsula lies Sand Point, AK. David Osterback, Captain, Commercial Fisherman, and LEO Member documented the pink salmon run for the Shumagin Islands during the summers of 2015-16. During 2015, Sand Point’s pink salmon run had an unprecedented return with numbers not seen before. The following year, 2016 it was the complete opposite, local fisherman did notice a change in the sea water temperature during 2015 as being warmer than 2016. Conversation among commercial fisherman in the Shumagin’s during 2016 mention the warmer water temperature’s are a potential factor with salmon numbers. During the 2017 salmon season in the Kachemak Bay, pink salmon were showing up in unexpected places around Homer, AK. M. Tcheripanoff

Resources: Alaska Department of Fish & Game – “Pink salmon have the shortest lifespan of all the Pacific salmon found in North America. They mature and complete their entire life cycle in two years. This predictable two-year life cycle has created genetically distinct odd-year and even-year populations of pink salmon.”

  • Wildlife Notebook Series – The pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) also known as the “humpy” because of its very pronounced, laterally flattened hump which develops on the backs of adult males before spawning.

Olympic National Park Washington – The Salmon Life Cycle, “The anadromous life history strategy of salmon plays a key role in bringing nutrients from the ocean back into rivers and the wildlife community. Though it varies among the five species of Pacific salmon, in its simplest form, it is hatch, migrate, spawn, die.” Source: NPS February 2015.


We work to keep you updated on what is happening along the Kuskokwim. If you are interested in getting involved or have any questions, feel free to contact me  at meredith.witte@georgetowntc.com or at 907.274.2195.

M Witte 06.15.2018

This observations were taken from the LEO Network with permission. Please respect the information collected and presented by crediting the observers and pictures in the observations. Featured Image Photo Credit: USFWS/ Ryan Hagerty

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