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Plentiful chum salmon benefit one Yukon village, swim past others

Erik Hill/Anchorage Daily News file

More than 2 million chum salmon have been counted swimming up the Yukon River this summer, the biggest run in years. But along much of the river, they migrate alongside the more prized king salmon, which are in a years-long slump. State efforts to protect kings have limited villagers' access to chums. But in Kaltag, home of a fledgling commercial chum harvest that uses fishwheels, the two salmon species swim on opposite sides of the river. That bit of luck, combined with a marketing push for chum consumption Outside, has brought scores of jobs to Kaltag this season.

Reports Alaska Dispatch:

What's happening [in Kaltag] is a unique success story during a season that has seen other Yukon River salmon fisherman reduced to spectators. ... When jobs are hard to come by and living expenses are high, depression can hang over an entire community like a storm that refuses to move. It's a problem with no easy fix, regardless of political winds or the health of Alaska's overall economy. Yet a public-private fishing venture in Kaltag has helped lift the community's emotional fog.

"For the first time in a long time we have almost the whole community employed. It's exciting for me to see them feel good about themselves and know they can work and provide for their families," Kaltag Mayor Violet Burnham said in an interview Tuesday.

Read more at Dispatch: On the mighty Yukon, chum salmon fuel an economic revival.

KTUU reported earlier this month from the point of view of less fortunate villagers along the Yukon, where the potential bounty of chum salmon is largely passing by subsistence fisherman and a big commercial harvest is a mere dream.