Trying to save salmon
Patrick “Pat” Ferrer ’13 worked 12-hour days for two and a half months in Alaska in the summer of 2012 to help study the collapsing salmon population.
“The state of the Alaskan-Pacific fishery is dire,” he said. “The Alaskan government needs to be more involved in conservation.”
Pat said the government wants the tourist dollars that fishermen bring and allows overfishing until the situation is critical. While Pat was in Alaska, a state of emergency was declared on the disappearing king salmon. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed the Kenai River to fishing for kings and restricted fishing on the Kasilof River.
An environmental studies major from Charlotte, N.C., Pat found two related jobs in Alaska on line. He did an internship with Alaska Fish and Game and worked for the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association (CIAA), earning nine academic credit hours.
More importantly, the internships helped him confirm what he wants to do post-graduation. “I definitely want to go into the field of fisheries work,” he said.
Pat worked in the Matanuska-Susitna River Valley with a view of Mt. McKinley from his tent. He worked on a tributary of the Susitna River, trapping smolt (baby salmon bound for the sea) to check their weight and length, before releasing them on their journey.
Pat and two other interns caught and measured 15,000 fish, 60 at a time between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Then they had to get up four times during the night to see if more fish had entered the traps.
Pat’s other project involved pike in Whiskey Lake. For the CIAA, his job was to catch and tag pike, which are an invasive, non-native species that are preying on salmon. The effort is aimed at determining whether pike are spreading from lake to lake. Alaska Fish and Game also had him kill about 200 pike.
“There is hope to turn it around,” Pat said of the pike problem. He said the data so far does not show the pike moving readily from lake to lake.
Pat found LC through Colleges That Change Lives and initially wanted to major in history and minor in environmental studies. An introduction to environmental studies class with Dr. Brooke Haiar convinced him to swap the two. He said that made a better fit with his passion for fishing, hunting, and hiking.