JUNEAU, Alaska–The world famous underwater camera is again providing the perspective of salmon and other fish in Steep Creek, near the Mendenhall Glacier. The link to the fish cam is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTa2Q_QTUsY. Sockeye, in their full spawning colors, arrived a few days ago. The release of water from behind the glacier, a jökulhlaup, and heavy weekend rain created temporarily cloudy stream conditions. Sockeye salmon enter the creek to dig redds (nests), find mates, and spawn through the end of August.
Pete Schneider, a fisheries biologist on the Juneau Ranger District, has been the backbone and champion of this project for many years. Schneider was recently recognized for his innovative accomplishments and outstanding public relations at the Rise to the Future Awards ceremony at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
The Fish of Steep Creek went viral in 2013. A live broadcast of spawning salmon, Dolly Varden char, and an occasional black bear captured the attention of internet viewers worldwide when the underwater webcam at Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center beamed live video to the Forest Service’s YouTube site during the salmon run. More than 27,000 people tuned in to the Steep Creek feed and collectively watched 10,314 hours of video. The “fish cam” was far and away the most popular of all Forest Service web videos.
“The feedback from the public is wonderful, positive, and provides us an opportunity to educate others (in the States and around the world) about Alaska salmon. The perspective from underwater is truly unique and is a great way to share with viewers”, said Schneider. “We in Alaska often take the salmon for granted. We forget many people don’t know much about salmon or that the Forest Service works to manage for their habitat needs. Natural salmon runs are becoming less common in the lower 48 and it’s not surprising so many folks get excited to know places like this still exist.”
Schneider’s dedication saw this project through many technological and administrative hurdles. The display was locally viewed whenfirst put in place in 1995 as an Eagle Scout project by Matt Statsny. The Steep Creek fish camera is now opened to the world to provide a virtual underwater window into the Tongass National Forest.
Rise to the Future is a USDA Forest Service initiative designed to enhance the fisheries and watersheds on national forests. The Rise to the Future awards acknowledge exceptional work in the aquatic arena, such as fish, watershed, soils and management leadership, aquatic research, aquatic restoration, fishery/recreational accomplishments and collaborative/integrated aquatic stewardship.