On a sunny evening this week, a small group of local commercial fishermen had the opportunity to join biologists from our local Kachemak Bay Estuarine Research Reserve at the Stariski Creek to see where baby salmon start their journeys. This field trip explored how land feeds these young salmon and provides the essential systems for their growth before they make their way to the ocean.
Biologists Coowe Walker and Steve Baird lead an electrofishing demonstration, which safely stuns baby salmon in a stream so that they can be scooped up to be studied, sampled and tagged. It was amazing how many tiny cohos came up with one scoop of a net, and we all marveled at their toughness, tiny tiger stripes and big eyes. It was interesting for our group of fishermen to consider how the salmon we catch at sea often spend years of their life on land, in small streams or creeks miles above sea-level – in places that we reserve in our mind for homes or hiking trails or wilderness. We talked about how our behavior on land, as business owner, land owners, or just as individuals, can have a great impact on the way our local salmon populations thrive. As the human population of the Kenai Lowlands grows, Coowe and Steve urged, it's important to understand that salmon and people depend on one another and that this age-old dependence stretches across the entire landscape.
There are a few ways people can help preserve our local salmon habitat.
- Alders are an essential source of nitrogen for salmon downstream, so land owners can think about keeping the alders on their land intact or planting new ones, especially if they are near a stream or water source.
- Salmon swim upstream after they're hatched to grow big and strong. Sometimes culverts can get in their way, especially if they're built too high above the actual stream and create a waterfall baby salmon can't swim up, so it's important that they allow salmon passage.
- Tall grasses, shady bends and undercuts are all important to a healthy salmon habitat, so it's best to keep what's wild and natural around your neighborhood streams intact. If streams or rivers are straightened out and widened to allow for boat or human traffic, the current often starts to run too fast and salmon aren't able to swim against it.
The Kenai Lowlands is one of the last places of its kind. Salmon still thrive here and there is still so much we can do keep it this way. There is much to learn about the way humans and salmon can share this landscape, but it's exciting that we can help spread the word about how people can do their part while salmon are still our neighbors. If you live in the Homer area and are interested in learning more or want to bring a group on a field trip to see salmon babies first hand, visit the Kachemak Bay Heritage Land Trust and the Kachemak Bay Estuarine Research Reserve.
This year at Salmon Sisters, we are celebrating salmon streams because we know how important they are to our livelihood and want our home to remain a place where salmon continue to thrive and grow as our neighbors. Many of our products this season are about salmon stewardship – check out our Salmon Stream collection on the webshop!