FROM fall through spring, the fleet of commercial fishing boats here in the panhandle of Alaska stalk winter king salmon. In the mornings prisms of ice sparkle beneath the sodium lights of the docks, where I live on a World War II tugboat with my wife and 8-month-old daughter.
This winter I’ve been out a few times fishing on the I Gotta, catching pristine wild salmon, torpedoes of muscle. But the work is slow, five fish a day, and my skipper recently traveled down to Reno, Nev., for knee surgery.
Carpeted in rain forest and braided with waterways, southeast Alaska is among the largest wild salmon producers in the world, its tourism and salmon fishing industries grossing about $2 billion a year.
But today, the rivers and the salmon that create these jobs — and this particular way of life, which attracted me from Philadelphia to Sitka almost 20 years ago — are threatened by Canada’s growing mining industry along the mountainous Alaska-British Columbia border, about a hundred miles east of where I now write.
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