What’s to blame for Alaska’s poor king salmon runs? Submarines, suggests Rep. Young.

A man speaks at a podium
Rep. Don Young in 2020 (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media).

Chinook salmon runs are in decline across Alaska, and research suggests a host of factors are to blame, from ocean predators to warmer streams and excess rain. But Alaska Congressman Don Young recently added a novel suspect to the list: nuclear submarines.

“We have to figure this out. Have to work on it and make sure there’s not something going on,” he said of the poor runs. “Is it climate change? Are they moving north? Is there a nuclear sub stuck out there somewhere?”

Young spoke at a subcommittee hearing Thursday, and acknowledged his theory sounds unusual.

“Everybody laughs at me but at one time I counted 64 nuclear subs from Russia,” he said. “We kept track of them as they came off the coast of California.”

A spokesman said Young was referring to matters like those described in a 2020 BBC article on radioactive submarine wrecks.

Young’s comments came after testifying for his bill to protect Alaska’s salmon from farmed and genetically engineered fish. Subcommittee Chairman Jared Huffman, D-Calif., noted that Young only used about half of his allotted five minutes in his comments. So Young detoured into the Chinook mystery and his nuclear theory. RELATED: Kenai king salmon fishery shuts down

“See, I knew if we drew you out a little we’d get something interesting and colorful,” Huffman said. “So thank you for that, Don, and for your leadership on these bills.”

Research on the chinook problem has not focused on nuclear pollution.

A study published last year identified multiple climate and habitat changes that are suppressing Chinook runs in Southcentral Alaska, but found no single factor that can fully explain the declines.

Young called for more research. 

Previous articleTroopers arrest Chefornak man for threatening health workers offering COVID vaccines
Next articleLabyrinth helps Fairbanks man through chronic pain
Liz Ruskin covers Alaska issues in Washington as the network's D.C. correspondent. She was born in Anchorage and is a West High grad. She has degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. She previously worked at the Homer News, the Anchorage Daily News and the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. She also freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013. She's @lruskin on Twitter. She welcomes your news tips at lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz

No posts to display