LISTEN: Study shows Alaska salmon are shrinking

Chinook salmon make their way up Ship Creek to spawn. (Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

Nearly all species of salmon caught in Alaska have gotten smaller over the last six decades, according to a study published recently in the journal Nature Communications.

The decline in body size among chinook, sockeye, coho and chum salmon has a negative impact on the number of eggs fish lay, but smaller body sizes also mean fewer meals for humans, fewer commercial fishing dollars and fewer nutrients transported into rivers every year.

Krista Oke is one of the lead authors and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, with fellow project leads Peter Westley, also from UAF, and Eric Palkovacs from the Ecology and Evolutionary Biolology Department at UC Santa Cruz, along with a working group organized by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

Oke says a warming climate and increased competition in the ocean are important factors on body size. And she says they learned that the salmon aren’t growing slower, they just aren’t spending as much time growing at all.

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