Kings of the Yukon
by Adam Weymouth
The people, the river, and the fish. Kings of the Yukon is a book about more than just salmon. Author Adam Weymouth journeyed down the entire length of the Yukon River, along the way meeting local residents, native peoples, seeing the incredible sights and learning more about the salmon.
The King Salmon is a dying breed. The author paddled the entire length of the Yukon River, from Canada to Alaska. Along the way, he talked to many people involved in the salmon fishing industry, First Nations people whose culture depends on the salmon, cannery workers, people in fish camps, and more.
The King salmon is also called the Chinook. It is native to the northwest and the Arctic. Over many years, the fish runs have collapsed, to the point that many First Nations people upriver have voluntarily stopped fishing for them, hoping that the populations will rebound. Not only that, but the fish that do return now are much smaller than historically. This may be because fishermen select the largest fish and this leaves only the smaller ones to make their way back to their natal streams, where they spawn.
The salmon’s story goes beyond just Alaska and Canada though. Salmon is shipped worldwide from there. It is served in fine restaurants and stores. Salmon used to be in many river systems from which it is now missing. The author tells us about the salmon as he makes his way downriver.
I enjoyed how the science of salmon was woven into the story of his journey. The people he meets all have something to say about the salmon. He sees tiny villages, fishing camps, and big cities as he goes. Everywhere, he eats salmon, from fresh caught from the river to canned. As a reader, you get a glimpse into this world that not many of us will ever see. It’s remote and difficult to get to. Seeing things from the river gives you a unique perspective on this story. Although King Salmon are found on the river where I live, I learned more in this book about them than I have ever before. I highly recommend it. It’s eye-opening to see how humans have affected every ecosystem on earth. The point will come when our harvests are no longer sustainable. This book will show you the effects of this.
It’s a good solid read and will leave you with plenty to think about later.