August 19, 2014
For the last week, from Shugnak all the way down to Kotzebue, people are reporting dead fish washed up on the banks of Northwest Alaska's Kobuk River in astonishing numbers. The fish appear to have been healthy and unspawned. Some have mysterious white welts dotting their backs.
Carolyn Ballot, mayor of Ambler, said when she first heard about the fish, she suspected bears were pulling salmon out of the water, which is nothing unusual. But the huge number of fish washing ashore quickly became concerning. She wondered whether warm weather in the region was causing the die-off.
“There is something going on,” she said.
The explanation may be somewhat mundane, though: The Alaska Department of Fish and Game suspects the die-off is related to this year’s extremely strong chum salmon run, to the point that the fish are practically clogging the waterway.
"It's one of the greatest runs of all of time," said Jim Menard, Alaska Department of Fish and Game area management commercial fisheries biologist for the Kotzebue and Norton Sound region.
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