Every year, millions of mature salmon make their way from the ocean back upstream into the lakes and rivers of Alaska to spawn. This rite of passage is as perilous for the salmon as it is magnificent for viewers to witness. It is a remarkable journey that is a sight to behold, not just because of the salmon but because of all the flora and fauna they support.
They are an important food source for some of the wildlife our trip-goers most like to see, including bears and eagles. Wherever they end their journey, salmon decompose and allow vital ocean nutrients to enrich the streams and soils of Alaska, supporting all plants and animals. But this natural cycle may be changing due to climate change and industrial development.
Climate Change and the Salmon Run
A recent study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution found that sockeye salmon, among the most prized salmon varieties in Alaska, are changing their behavior due to climate change. Warmer temperatures are fueling the main food source for young salmon, plankton. Therefore, the young salmon are reaching maturity faster and migrating to the ocean quicker.
It may be surprising, but faster-maturing salmon is not a benefit. Now, salmon are more likely to migrate to the ocean altogether, at one year of age. This can lead to more impacted salmon if ocean conditions are poor and eventually worse salmon runs.
Ocean conditions are less favorable for salmon compared to freshwater. Wild salmon now spend an extra year in the ocean, where their growth is delayed by a variety of factors, including having to compete with hatchery-raised salmon, which inevitably affects the salmon run.
What Does this Mean for Bear Tours?
Every bear tour is a unique experience. Our Fortress of the Bears tours takes you to Pack Creek Bear Sanctuary. With over 1800 brown bears located on Admiralty Island, this is one of the most consistent places to see bears, and it rarely disappoints. That said, the bears in this area are most active during the salmon run. They need this consistent source of food in July and August to prepare for the winter.
We care about the bears and want to keep providing exceptional tour experiences for our guests. This includes getting to see the bears in their natural habitat and learning why supporting the bears and all of Alaska’s wildlife is so important.
Our goal is to explore, educate, and promote environmental conservation in our own backyard. ABAK believes that exploration accompanied by education leads to conservation. We take pride in doing what we love and hope to share with others this beautiful world full of adventure.