Overfishing in Alaska is a topical subject, but just over a year ago the Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimated that 54 million sockeye salmon would return to Bristol Bay, the largest commercial sockeye salmon producing region in the world. At a time when fishery populations are under pressure, on average, this was a more-than confident prediction; 54 million is 40% greater than the previous 10-year mean of total runs and 51% greater than the long-term mean of 32.43 million.
It turns out that their confidence was well placed—they crushed it: the salmon run was the largest in years. A small portion of that run was captured by Jason Ching in a spectacular aerial-recorded video (below).
Jason Ching, works with the Alaska Salmon Program and shot this astounding film during survey work, carried out by him and his team on Lake Iliamna (hence the video title: ‘ABOVE ILIAMNA’).
The video description reads: “Fly high above Lake Iliamna in Alaska, following the crew of the Alaska Salmon Program as they conduct sockeye salmon surveys during one of the largest salmon returns in years.”
Iliamna is Alaska’s largest lake and home to the 2.5 million returning sockeye.
Adventure Journal caught up with Ching to find out more:
The video was produced to give the viewer the feeling of joining our research group for a day of work. The video starts and ends at our research station and field camp on Porcupine Island, in Iliamna Lake, Alaska. Throughout the middle of the video the viewers are seeing aerial surveys of sockeye salmon aggregated to spawn at several different locations around the east end of the lake.
During the 2014 and 2015 field seasons, we began to explore using UAS (unmanned aerial systems) to gather population estimates of sockeye salmon on spawning locations around Iliamna Lake. We conducted these aerial surveys across several different stream, beach and island spawning sites in conjunction with on-the-ground counts. The video shows some clips of these aerial surveys, and I think really speaks to the efficacy of using drones not only to capture stunning footage, but also for advancing research techniques in the field.
This 2015 season saw one of the largest returns of sockeye salmon to Bristol Bay and especially the Iliamna Lake system in recent years. The large abundance of salmon speaks not only to how well the largest commercial sockeye salmon fishery is managed, but also illustrates how productive such intact natural systems and diverse habitats can be.
Via: Adventure Journal