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Jim Hopkins

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I think every one of my coworkers would agree that the best sunrises and sunsets that any of us have ever seen — and most of the people I work with are world travelers — are at the Great Salt Lake. There's seven mountain ranges that surround the Great Salt Lake, and when the clouds are just right, that sun comes up underneath and reflects off the lake. It just lights up the whole sky and everybody just stops in the morning and goes, alright, let's take a 10 second break and enjoy this moment of vividness. It doesn't always happen. But when it does, it's a magic moment.

Jim Hopkins worked as a brine shrimper on Great Salt Lake for 25 years. He retired last year. Hopkins saw the brine shrimp harvest plummet two years ago when the lake reached record lows. With less fresh water inflows, the lake’s salinity spikes to unhealthy levels for brine shrimp. 

Brine shrimpers like Hopkins harvest brine shrimp cysts. Great Salt Lake is a vital piece of the global aquaculture industry. The lake is one the largest producers of brine shrimp in the world. The cysts are sold to numerous countries, primarily those in Southeast Asia, to feed fish and larger shrimp, which then end up on grocery store shelves in Utah. 

Brine shrimping is difficult work. During harvest season in the fall and early winter, Hopkins worked 18-hour days for weeks. Sometimes he’d go two weeks without touching dry land and just sleep on the boat. He says conditions can get “ferocious.” Hopkins remembers one storm where four-foot waves almost knocked him into the water. Because of the high salt content, the waves are dense and crash closer together than waves in the ocean. Winter also brings the danger of ice and cold water: The lake’s temperature can get below freezing and miles-long ice sheets can form.

Jim Hopkins
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