Chapter 4  Protecting Our Clean Water

 Picture of students and citizens studying salmon enviornment

Note: The laws affecting fish habitat that are outlined on pp. 30 and 31 of Alaska’s Wild Salmon are still in effect. In 2003 the responsibility for enforcing these laws and for permitting activities in salmon bearing waters were moved from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources in order to streamline the permitting process and provide for additional clarity in interpreting the laws. Enforcement of these regulations is now largely the responsibility of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources in consultation with Department of Fish and Game staff.


Key Concepts


Individuals and communities make choices that produce positive and negative impacts on salmon and their habitats. It is important that Alaskans understand the consequences of their actions on the health of watersheds and salmon resources.

The health and future of Alaska’s wild salmon will depend, in part, upon our conservation efforts and responsible development with regard to:

·        potential pollution & contaminants;

·        non-point source pollution;

·        invasive species;spread of Atlantic salmon in the Pacific Ocean, and

·        fish farming.


Chapter Objectives


Students will be able to explain how choices we make in land and water use can affect the survival of Alaska’s wild salmon. They will understand effects of pollution and contamination, changes in water volume or flow, invasive species, Atlantic salmon, and fish farming on wild salmon.

Students will also understand:

·        steps they can take to help decrease negative impacts on wild salmon, and

·        actions they can take to help protect and restore important salmon habitat.


Terms Students Should Understand


pollution- the contamination of soil, water, or air with noxious substances

non-point pollution- pollution from non-specific sources. This includes accidental and incidental pollution from our daily activities.

invasive species- living organisms that thrive (and often compete with native species) when they are transported either intentionally or by natural processes to places where they are not normally found. In Alaska it is illegal to transport live fish without a permit because of the dangers of introducing exotic species.

fish farming- the breeding, raising, and harvest of fish in enclosures. This is different from ocean ranching, which releases hatchery-bred fish to rear in the ocean and return.

hydrological degradation – (See back cover of Alaska’s Wild Salmon)


Background for Teachers


See “Note” at the start of this chapter.


Do Alaskans need to worry about invasive species?           

Invasive species have been called the greatest threat there is to America’s waters and watershed health. Although many troublesome species are now well established in parts of the Lower 48, few thus far appear to have become established in Alaska. Still, the problem remains, and Alaskans must be alert to the potential hazards of exotic organisms introduced through such sources as aquaculture, cargo shipped on boats and planes, imported nursery and mail-order plants, and other sources.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game Division of Wildlife Conservation web site describes invasive species threats in Alaska and has developed an "Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan," as well as the following suggestions that anglers can follow to help prevent invasive species from entering as a result of sport fishing activity:

·   clean all personal fishing gear and dry it thoroughly before using it in Alaska,

·   wash lines and tackle in killing solutions of bleach or water hotter than 150 degrees F.,

·   provide loaner tackle and gear to friends from Outside to use while they are in Alaska.       

 Picture of technician inspecting culverts

Questions For Discussion


1. Refer to the quote from the Alaska Constitution in the lefthand column on p. 30 of Alaska’s Wild Salmon. Is it possible to “utilize, develop, and maintain” resources on the sustained yield principle all at the same time? What are “beneficial uses”? How can economic development and people’s need for jobs be reconciled with the effects that resource extraction and community development activities may have on waters that provide habitat for salmon? 

What kinds of choices must communities make, and how should “preferences among beneficial uses” be allocated?

What are some examples of local choices that students consider successful or less successful?


There are no simple answers here. What is important is that students realize difficult choices must be made, and that we can all participate in processes for making community and statewide decisions about resource management.

2. Students should be aware of the state and several federal laws that work together to protect salmon habitat and assure safe passage for Alaska’s fish. They will learn more about the role of the agencies that enforce these laws in Chapter 7 (pp. 58-61).

A class discussion would help students think about which laws they can see working in their community, and how the laws interface with the needs of the community and the desires of individual families and businesses.

3. Fish farming has been banned in Alaska. Some people have proposed lifting that ban to allow Alaskans to raise farm-reared fish.  What are the arguments for and against this proposal?


Some arguments students might come up with are:

Pro: Fish farming could provide new jobs in the world market. Farms make fresh fish available year around.

Con: Farmed fish could introduce pollution and invasive organisms, and would compete with wild salmon, destroying genetic resilience just when environmental changes may require it more than ever. Many commercial fishermen feel fish farming would destroy the small operator salmon fisheries prevalent in Alaska.

4. Have students study the pie chart on p. 32 of Alaska’s Wild Salmon, then discuss potential sources of the various types of pollution in their community, particularly as they could affect salmon and their habitat at various stages of the life cycle. What is being done to curtail or control them? How effective is it? What could students do to help?


5. What can all Alaskans do to help prevent the introduction or expansion of invasive plants and animals in their communities?

See Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game plan for dealing with invasive species. (See Resources later in this chapter.)

6. Refer to the top photo on p. 34 of Alaska’s Wild Salmon. Why would people introduce a species such as northern pike into waters in which they don’t occur naturally? How can we educate people about the dangers of such introductions?


Ideas for Activities


1. Have students list for one day all the times they use clean water, and in what approximate quantities. Then have them investigate: Where does their water come from, and could their usage have any potential impact on salmon habitat? What would happen if their family and community population grew substantially? What precautions could be taken to meet community needs but also protect salmon?

Invite students to produce written material or a display to share what they have learned with members of the community.

2. Assign groups of students to look for potential sources of non-point source pollution that could affect salmon habitat in their homes and in various sites in the community. The idea is not to point fingers but to  identify problems, see what is being done, and see if efforts to control pollution could be improved. Then, using the list on p. 33 under “What You Can Do,” have them propose three things they could do to help minimize pollution effects on salmon and their habitat.

Here are just a few examples: Besides looking around their homes for fertilizers, pesticides, etc. and how they are used and disposed of, students might:

·   go to a parking lot and look for oil slicks – Where do they go when it rains? Are they adequately controlled?

·   visit the boat harbor – Are there provisions for pumping sewage tanks, disposing of waste oil, and cleaning up bilge water? How are people encouraged to use amenities that may be provided?

·   check out ATV trails – Do they cross salmon streams? Could anything be done to educate riders and/or reroute trails?

3. Have students visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game invasive species web site to learn more about Survey local agency personnel for information on possible invasive plants and animals in their area and in Alaska. What fish species in their region have come from other places? Have they had beneficial or harmful effects? What can the class do to help monitor or control these and other potential invaders? Ask them to share their information and ideas with the community.

Students might also survey local agency personnel, talk with their parents or elders about changes in local plants and animal species, or look at possible sources of invasive species in their community. Research on the internet can help them understand the problems other states and countries are facing from invasive species.

4. Have students role play questions and decisions that would emerge if a new business were proposed that would affect salmon habitat, especially water quality, volume, or flow, in the community. Assign students or groups to research and represent the interests and perspectives that would be represented by such players as the business owners, adjacent property owners, people and groups who harvest fish, regulatory agencies, and others. Hold a mock hearing or town meeting in which students present their viewpoints.

An “audience” of students, invited parents, or invited agency personnel could comment on how convincing student representatives were, what other issues might be relevant, and what they think the community decision might be as a result of the mock hearing.

5. Societies usually protect the things they value the most. Ask students to think about how their community values clean water for human use, and to explore how clean fresh water is valued around the globe. Can they imagine any scenario in which people would be competing with salmon for a certain volume and flow of clean water in your community? (What if the community started a water bottling plant? What would be valued more, salmon or water? How would salmon habitats be affected?) Discuss how much we value clean water, and how people in other parts of the U.S. and the world value water. Some students may research concerns about global water shortages.

An interesting exercise is to have students visit local stores to determine the amount of shelf space devoted to bottled water and its price per gallon. Have the class compare the price per gallon of water and gasoline or diesel fuel.What is the economic value? In what other ways do we establish values for resources? How can values change over time? And how might salmon be affected by changing values?

6. Have students discuss the information on p. 35 about Atlantic salmon. Be sure they could identify and know where and how to report a catch of Atlantic salmon.


Resources Especially for Teachers


Village Water Resource Curriculum (grades K-8) .

Contact Michele Hebert at the Alaska Cooperative Extension Service Cooperative Extension Service

This curriculum kit contains lesson plans and materials for 8 educational water quality activities especially relevant to interior Alaska villages. Activities address the natural water cycle, identification and sources of hazardous materials in the home, sources of drinking water in villages, sources of contamination, difficulty in cleaning up contamination, and how pollutants can affect fish.

Water for Kids

The Water for Kids section of EPA’s Water link has ideas for lessons and classroom activities about clean water.

Resources for Students and Teachers


Invasive species

This web site describes the history and threat of invasive species in Alaska and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game “Alaska Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan” to monitor and control them. The first 14 pages are an excellent overview of the history and threats of invasive species, and there is a link to the department’s white paper on Atlantic salmon.

Farmed and Dangerous

This web site of the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform discusses problems of farmed salmon as exotic species.

Many of the references used in Chapter 3 regarding salmon habitat and watersheds can be revisited from the perspective of the need for volume and flow of clean water.


See web sites of the agencies responsible for the four state and other federal laws protecting clean water.


Global Water Shortage

This site posts an excellent article entitled “Global Water Shortage Looms in New Century” from the Arizona Water Resources Research Center at the University of Arizona.


Looking Ahead


How many benefits can you list that come to your community because of healthy salmon stocks? Do salmon have to be harvested to be beneficial?


Previous    Next