Northern Canadian communities have been harvesting salmon in such extraordinary numbers that a cookbook is now being produced to help residents eat them all.
Over the 2019-20 season, far more salmon were harvested and shared with the Arctic Salmon research team than in the project’s previous two decades.
Salmon are not a traditional catch in many northern communities. Researchers said last year the sheer number of salmon turning up appeared to be “a completely unexpected response” to climate change.
“One of the questions we got was: how do we eat these fish?” said federal biologist Dr Karen Dunmall, who leads the project studying salmon in the Western Arctic and Nunavut.
In response, her team has decided to publish a free cookbook.
Around 2,500 salmon have been caught in the region since July 2019. Dunmall said 80 percent were chum salmon, four times the previous record catch for the species.
There were also higher-than-normal numbers of pink and sockeye salmon.
“People were definitely eating them in the communities,” said Dunmall, “so that sparked the idea for this cookbook.”
The biologists want people with serving suggestions to email recipes or photos of recipes by Tuesday, February 18, including their name, community, and the source of their recipe.
“We are also interested in receiving photos of people preparing, enjoying, or catching the salmon,” added Laurissa Christie, a biologist managing the cookbook project.
Christie aims to have the cookbook completed before April 1, and hopes people who have harvested salmon for generations will share knowledge with communities just starting to catch the fish.
The cookbook will be printed and distributed in Arctic communities where salmon are caught, and will be available for free online.
The Arctic Salmon project takes fish heads from people in exchange for gift cards. Researchers then study the fish to better understand where the salmon are coming from, what their influx means for native fish, and whether more bumper years for salmon could be coming up.
The biologists say they have been “inundated” with salmon heads over the past year and will need until at least the end of March to analyze their results.
“The numbers and species are interesting,” explained Dunmall, “but that’s really just the beginning of the information we can get.”