Pink salmon die-off, and low water levels at Antone Larsen Creek
Observation: Many residents of the Kodiak Archipelago have noticed an increased presence of dead salmon within various river systems, compared to previous years. A combination of physical factors is likely the source of this die-off. Because of the mild winter last year, there were low amounts of snowfall. According to NOAA, last winter produced 0.2 inches of snowfall per day, compared to the previous two winters of 0.3 and .04 inches snowfall per day. In addition to lower snowfall, the weather has been warmer this year, with temperatures averaging 46.0°F, compared to 2014 (averaging 44.9°F), and 2013 (averaging 43.4°F). Annual precipitation has been lower on Kodiak as well. The spring/summer of 2015 produced .14 inches of precipitation per day. This is lower than last year’s annual precipitation of .15 inches per day. Low snowfall, combined with the warmer weather and decreased rainfall meant lower water levels for the river systems this summer. The lower water levels have caused difficulty for salmon to reach upper segments of the rivers to spawn. The salmon are exhausting themselves in the lower reaches of the river systems, and subsequently dying. The salmon return has produced fish weighing significantly less than previous seasons. Alaska Department of Fish & Game reports that sockeye salmon returning to Kodiak weighed 4.7 pounds on average, which is a half-pound lighter than the historical values. Therefore, the fitness of the salmon could also have a role in the die-off around the archipelago.