When salmon all but vanished from western Alaska in 2021, thousands of people in the region faced disaster. Rural families lost a critical food source. Commercial fisherfolk found themselves without a significant stream of income. And Alaska Native children stopped learning how to catch, cut, dry, and smoke fish — a tradition passed down since the time of their ancestors.
Behind the scenes, the salmon shortage has also inflamed a long-simmering legal fight among Native stakeholders, the Biden administration, and the state over who gets to fish on Alaska’s vast federal lands.
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