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News Link • Environment

Dismal Copper River salmon run prompts 'unprecedented' shutdown of dipnetting at Chitina

• by Zaz Hollander

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order Wednesday closing the personal-use fishery until further notice as of Monday.

The state decision comes amid dismal returns of the river's famed sockeye salmon, usually plentiful enough to fuel not only personal-use and subsistence fisheries but also commercial catches to supply markets and restaurants around the Lower 48.

Biologists blame the "Blob": a large mass of unusually warm water that lurked in the Gulf of Alaska from 2014 through 2016 when young sockeye returning now swam out to feed.

For the commercial fishery at the Copper River's mouth, this year's sockeye catch is the second lowest it's been in 50 years, after Fish and Game shut down that fishery in late May.

State fish biologists say otherwise there might not be enough sockeye swimming back up the Copper River to spawn and keep the run going strong.

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