Key Concepts and Objectives


Key Concepts

Chapter Objectives

Introduction to Salmon in Alaska

Salmon are a crucial part of life for nearly all Alaskans. Alaska is the last great stronghold for healthy stocks of wild salmon. Each one of us is responsible for helping to sustain this resource.

After completing this introduction, students will:

·    think about the importance of salmon to themselves, their families, and their community;

·    wonder why Alaska is the last great stronghold for healthy stocks of wild salmon;

·    think about what they can do to help assure sustainable stocks of wild salmon in Alaska.

1) How Salmon Evolved & Adapted

Salmon and related species have evolved and changed over millions of years. Genetic diversity allowed different species and populations to adapt and survive under different conditions in various streams, lakes, and rivers. The genetic variety among these fishes is crucial to the survival of Alaska’s salmonids.

After completing this chapter students will be able to explain:

·    how salmon and related fishes evolved over the ages;

·    some of the evolutionary benefits salmon have gained by adaptations such as being anadromous;

·    why genetic diversity and healthy habitats are essential to the survival of wild salmon in Alaska.

2) Pacific Salmon Biology

Over millions of years Alaska’s wild salmon have developed a complex life cycle that allows them to thrive and expand into new areas. Each of the five species has developed distinct physical characteristics, different habitat needs, and different timetables for spawning and rearing. All five species are a crucial part of the food web that binds together Alaska’s land and oceans.

After completing this chapter students will understand and appreciate:

·     the life cycle of salmon and their stages of development;

·     the importance of salmon at each stage in their life cycle to the entire ecosystem;

·     differences among the five species of wild salmon, plus rainbow and cutthroat trout;

·     why these differences are so important to the survival of Alaska’s wild salmon;

·     how salmon expand into new areas and why it is important that they do.

3) Alaska’s Salmon Habitats

Healthy watersheds are crucial to sustaining Alaska’s wild salmon. Alaska is unique in that it has tremendous numbers of healthy watersheds. We have the ability to sustain salmon populations by understanding and maintaining these watersheds.

After completing this chapter students will be able to describe:

·    geographic areas and terms of the essential environmental elements found in healthy watersheds,

·    how each contributes to good salmon habitat, and

·    how the elements of salmon habitats are interconnected.

They will also be able to describe:

·    human behavior that can threaten elements of good salmon habitat;

·    steps they and their communities can take to assure healthy salmon spawning, rearing, and growing areas; and

·    the major salmon-producing areas in Alaska.

4) Protecting Our Clean Water

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.

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.

5) The Harvest of Salmon

The harvest of salmon has long been an important part of Alaska’s history. Salmon harvests will continue to play an important part in the economic and cultural life of Alaskans.

Students will be able to describe:

·    the four categories of Alaska salmon harvesters and their gear: commercial, subsistence, sport, and personal use;

·    the history and importance of each, both culturally and economically;

·    the challenge of balancing these uses with changing economic conditions and
maintaining healthy salmon populations;

·    how they can help their community respond to this challenge.

6) Alaska’s Salmon Management & Research

The goal of salmon management in Alaska is to allow enough returning salmon to reach spawning grounds to sustain salmon populations and related ecosystems, and to  provide for the harvest of salmon that are surplus to those needs. Sound research provides the foundation for effective conservation, management, and harvest practices.

Students will be able to:

·    explain how salmon in Alaska are managed on the basis of conservative management, sound science, and habitat protection;

·    explain the need and importance of in-season, abundance-based management;

·    describe or demonstrate some of the research techniques used to count, observe, and monitor salmon and to monitor environmental conditions necessary to salmon;

·    discuss the pros and cons, problems and advantages of hatcheries in Alaska.

7) Partners for Salmon

Partnerships of many kinds are crucial to protecting and restoring Pacific wild salmon stocks and the habitats that support their various life stages.

Students will be able to:

·    explain why partnerships among individuals, tribes, businesses, harvesters, and state, federal, international, and non-governmental organizations are essential to preserving the health of Alaska’s wild salmon;

·    describe the goals and activities of major agencies and organizations working to protect Alaska’s wild salmon.

·    demonstrate how they can play a role in determining how Alaska salmon stocks will be managed.

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