Tongass National Forest Hosts High School Fish Boot Camp
If you ask the guides of the Tongass National Forest what grows best there, their answer will be salmon. In the hope of creating a long-term economic fishery in this region, a consortium has been formed between local schools, the University of Alaska, a local conservation group and Tongass National Forest employees. One great way that this is going on is through a high school boot camp that teaches high school students the intricacies of salmon population monitoring habitat enhancement, creating excitement for a new generation of potential salmon fishery techs and biologists.
The Salmon Fishery Careers Project
The project took place on Prince of Wales Island, and had two main components. The first was to monitor returns to a river which had recently restored salmon habitat. Students learned to ID native riparian or riverside plants and fish smolts, tag and clip fish for monitoring before they returned to the stream to spawn, and learned about other species like birds and mammals for whom salmon streams are essential. The second part of the program was an in-depth look at all the different kinds of salmon fishery careers that come from a salmon stream. From fisherman to biologist, forestry manager to conservationist, fishing guide, resort owner, commercial fisherman, chef or hatchery manager, the choices seem endless. Students not only got a strong taste of a future career revolving around fishery and land management, but they also received both high school and college credits for taking the boot camp, as well as strong references for college applications.
The Tongass was an excellent choice to use as an example of an economically and ecologically important river system. Staff estimate that over a quarter of the Northeast Pacific’s harvested salmon population comes from here, generating over one billion dollars in annual revenue. This will continue to be an important economic resource and opportunity for Alaska’s future generations. The income is a combination of revenue from commercial fishing opportunities and the many different businesses that are paid for by Alaska’s fishing tourism industry. These visitors often spend money at all of the local businesses in a community, and not just the fishing guide business.
In addition to exciting a number of future fisheries techs and scientists, the project served to collect a large amount of data from the restored stream site. Information like this is used to monitor returns. It is hoped that data from long-term monitoring can be used to respond to population pressures with enough time to protect ecosystems, and to predict the size of fish runs in future years. Alaska continues to have a large base of natural resources that are considered very important to both the environmental and economic health of the land. By providing an opportunity to instill this into the minds and hearts of students, the initiative may create many more generations of Alaskans who will love and care for this land. For the rest of us, this means a lifetime of fishing opportunities in Alaska, for ourselves and many more generations to come.
For more on this, see the original article here.