The mighty chinook salmon, the largest of the Pacific salmon species, is shrinking, which is scary news for Southeast Alaska’s already-imperiled king stocks. Fisheries researchers from Alaska and Washington recently summarized 40 years of data taken from 85 king salmon populations from California to Alaska. The results show that the fish are both decreasing in size and maturing earlier.

Additionally, 3 of the 34 total chinook populations that spawn in Southeast Alaska have been labeled “Stocks of Concern” after not having enough adults returning to spawn several years in succession. This can be seen across several other regional watersheds, including the Taku and the Stikine, which produce about 80 percent of the region's wild chinook, and where record-low returns have become the new norm.

“Chinook are known for being the largest Pacific salmon and they are highly valued because they are so large,” said lead author Jan Ohlberger, a research scientist in the UW’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “The largest fish are disappearing, and that affects subsistence and recreational fisheries that target these individuals.”