Gulf of Alaska Coastal Rivers & Streams

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Queen Charlotte island, British Columbia, Canada.
© WWF-Canon / James W. THORSELL

About the Area

With more than 196 inches (500 cm) of rain each year, this ecoregion is particularly important for its high concentrations of anadromous fish (those that migrate from freshwater to the ocean and back to freshwater).

These species serve as keystone elements by transferring marine-derived nutrients to the freshwater realm on an annual basis.

The Gulf of Alaska is in constant motion. Water circulates in and out of fjords and inlets. Glaciers cast off huge icebergs, which are carried out to sea by ocean currents. Many of the islands in the Gulf of Alaska are actually the tops of mountains that were submerged when glaciers melted thousands of years ago.

Parts of this ecoregion escaped glaciation and harbour localised endemics, particularly among cave-dwelling invertebrates.
Size:
882,000 sq. km (360,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Small Rivers

Geographic Location:
Upper western coast of North America: from southern Canada across to the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. Includes the Alexander Archipelago, the Queen Charlotte Islands, and Vancouver Island

Conservation Status:
Relatively Stable/Intact
Local Species
Species include Arctic lamprey (Lampetra japonica), Broad whitefish (Coregonus nasus), Alaska whitefish (C. nelsoni), Arctic cisco (C. autumnalis), Angayukaksurak char (Salvelinus anaktuvukensis), and numerous anadromous Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, O. nerka, O. mykiss, O. gorbuscha, O. keta, and O. kisutch).

Endemic fish species include the Olympic mudminnow (Novumbra hubbsi) and Salish sucker (Catostomus sp.). The white sturgeon found here is the largest freshwater fish in North America, reaching lengths of up to 20 feet (6 m)!

Featured species

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Terry DOMICO
White sturgeon & gill-net fisherman, Columbia River, USA.
© WWF-Canon / Terry DOMICO
White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus)

White sturgeon are the largest freshwater fish in North America and can weigh over 1,500 pounds, be 20 feet in length, and live for over 100 years. It is characterized by its large body size, large head and mouth, and long cylindrical body. It has four barbels located in front of its large, wide and toothless mouth, located on the bottom (ventral) side of its head. It has no scales, but "scutes" along its body for protection.

The white sturgeon is a slow growing, late maturing anadromous fish. White sturgeon spawn in large rivers in the spring and summer months and remain in fresh water while young. Young white sturgeon primarily feed on algae and aquatic insects while remaining in rivers and estuarine environments. White sturgeon primarily feed on fish, shellfish, crayfish, and on various aquatic invertebrates, clams, amphipods, and shrimp.

Read more:
Threats
Destructive logging practices are the largest and the most extensive threat. Additionally, population pressures, expanding agriculture, pollution, oil spills, pipelines, dams, and overfishing cause problems for migrating fish and other species of this region. There is growing concern that warming ocean temperatures may adversely affect migrating salmonids during the oceanic portion of their life cycle.
WWF’s work
Oslo, Norway, 26th April 2002 - WWF, the conservation organization, today awarded its prestigious WWF Arctic Award for Linking Tourism and Conservation 2001 to Alaska Wildland Adventures.
The Award was established in 1999 by WWF's International Arctic Programme to reward arctic tourism with an outstanding commitment to conservation.

WWF's work on ecotourism in the Arctic
WWF has worked on tourism in the Arctic since 1995. WWF's work on arctic tourism is based on the idea that tourism industry and conservation interests share a common goal: preserving the arctic environment that, with arctic cultures, is the basis for tourism in the region.

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