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APPENDIX D Site Visit Summaries T he overarching research themes outlined in this volume are based partly on the comments and insights provided by local scientists and community members, as well as representatives from govern- ment agencies, public interest groups, and industry. The specific needs articulated at each site fall into the following general categories: Sustainability of subsistence and commercial fisheries Ecosystem dynamics Monitoring of nearshore and deep-sea environments Contaminants and pollution Research and traditional values of indigenous peoples Data collection and dissemination of information Concerns about potential consequences of current environmental trends were expressed in the context of pertinent socioeconomic issues. Attendees provided ancillary information that the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) ought to consider in developing a research plan and offered suggestions about how best to approach these challenges. Following are summaries of the needs, issues, opinions, and data that were shared with NPRB representatives at the site meetings. These notes are based on impressions of the people with whom the committee talked, and do not necessarily reflect the committee's opinions. 107

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108 APPENDIX D KODIAK Attendees addressed issues transcending many different commercial fisheries, including herring, salmon, and crab. The nature of the relation- ship between fisheries and marine mammals was also an issue; the general consensus of those present was that mammalian interactions with fish are harming fisheries to a greater extent than fishermen are interfering with marine mammals. Regardless, the community perceives earthquakes to be the single largest threat to the Kodiak fisheries. A need was expressed for knowledge of herring spawning areas and accurate estimations of the sustainability of future harvests, particularly salmon population trends and migratory patterns. The competition of local salmon with farmed salmon on the world market was a particular issue. Specific ideas included focusing on identifying an organic label that could be used to recognize Alaskan native salmon. The processes triggering fluctuations in crab and shrimp stocks are not well known. At present, there are no funds to continue shrimp surveys, although this is a critical time to gather information since shrimp are returning to the Kodiak area. Monitoring nearshore environments is necessary to determine what oceanographic features are significant to bottomfish and crab fisheries. The committee heard that sleeper sharks and killer whales are prolif- erating at present in regional waters; consequently, some areas can no longer be fished. The relationship between sharks and local fish popula- tions is unknown. Killer whales however, are likely stripping sablefish off long lines deployed from ships. Participants advised that the committee consider evaluating the impact of commercial fisheries on local sea lion and sea otter populations. Fishermen asserted that they are not responsible for the decline in the marine mammals and that criticism has been misdirected. Locals also were concerned with the potential impact of climate change on the fisheries. Participants attested to an increase in paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). Questions as to why it is happening, how to test animals for PSP, and finding a "cure" for PSP were posed. Many in attendance believe that it is related to dumping by the military, fertilizer runoff, and oil spills. The Exxon Valdez spill was also generally thought to be a major cause of pollution in the coastal waters. Commercial fishery representatives had several ideas for addressing local concerns, including development of novel processing technologies and implementation of applied research programs. To assess the inter- actions among the entire ecosystem, a more holistic approach was also suggested. For example, the role and impact of forage fish and smaller organisms on the entire food chain should be identified. Attendees stated

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APPENDIX D 109 that such efforts aid the commercial fishery industry to compete in the world market. The community expressed irritation that fisheries management deci- sions are made in Juneau without the input of local peoples. Decisions made by the state and federal governments are viewed as political, rather than scientific. The community expressed a desire to be more involved in science. Indigenous peoples would be more apt to adhere to regulations if the process included them in the scientific agenda leading to regulations. It was seen as the role of the scientists to disseminate information to the community and to integrate research with local interests. Cultural train- ing would be necessary for scientists working in the area. It was evident that local knowledge would benefit environmental monitoring and research. BARROW Statements from individual participants emphasized that hunting and fishing are culturally, nutritionally, and religiously very important to local communities. Many were concerned with subsistence fisheries and hunt- ing of marine mammals, particularly the sustainability of bowhead whale populations. Minimal long-term data are available for this species, and there are no data on their prey or predators. For example, killer whale populations are increasing, yet little is known about their interactions with northern whale and seal populations, illustrating the importance of ecosystem-based research. Also at issue were increasing ship strikes on baleen whales, net entanglement of marine mammals, intrusion of commercial fishing fleets from the Bering Sea-Chuckchi region, the impact of noise on marine mammals, and the environmental impact of the oil industry. The oil industry was specifically targeted for altering fish and whale migratory patterns, creating noise from drilling, and causing polluting (i.e., oil spills). Examination of the impact of climate trends (e.g., global warming, climate change, Arctic Oscillation) on ice cover, subsistence organisms, and their predators and prey was a major concern. Ice cover is a concern not only because of its effect on subsistence animals, but also for safety reasons. Local people stated that sea ice has been thinner than in the past and the timing of ice recession has changed. Consequently, hunters risk their safety by walking on thin ice that may break or float out to sea if local wind conditions change. The issue of contaminants also emerged. Currently there is no pro- gram to monitor subsistence animals for bioaccumulation of toxins. The need for a program to monitor animals and to investigate disease, toxins, and starvation was stressed.

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110 APPENDIX D The NPRB was specifically asked to synthesize information (from sundry sources on all related topics) and to set up a program in which the local community can work directly with scientists. Local people feel that they are detached from scientific progress. The Beringia Heritage Program was cited as an example in which local people have a voice in ranking research. The local community stated that the scientific community had neglected traditional knowledge as a resource. Native citizens desire to aid in sample collection and specimen archival or to help in other capacities. JUNEAU The decline of marine mammals and fisheries was a primary concern among participants. There is a particular need for knowledge relating to the salmon fishery. Specific issues to emerge were the maintenance of salmon stocks, determining the nature of the relationship between farmed and wild salmon, and assessing whether hatchery fish are a health con- cern for indigenous peoples. Contributors conveyed the need for nearshore and species-specific work. At issue were interactions between fisheries and Steller sea lions, the relationship of sea otter population shifts and sea urchin abundance (particularly along the Aleutian Islands), and the decline in crab, rockfish, fur seal, and seabird populations. Ancillary subjects included the coordi- nation of Steller sea lion research from disparate sources and investiga- tion of factors contributing to the increasing population of sea otters (a competitor for subsistence resources with indigenous peoples) in South- east Alaska. The paramount worry of the local community relates to the decrease in the salmon populations in the Yukon-Kuskokwim regions and the rela- tionship of this decline to coincident changes in halibut distribution and availability (Pribilofs), spawning patterns of herring (Southeast), and the declining crab population (Gulf of Alaska). It was suggested that investi- gations focus on the impact that both commercial fishing and, conversely, restricted fishing in essential habitat areas might have on subsistence fish- ing and local communities. Evidence was presented that showed contaminants in seals and hali- but and toxic quantities of pollutants in killer whales and in seawater. Concerns emerged about climate change, particularly regarding sea- ice coverage and the impact on subsistence hunting. Ideas for managing these concerns included monitoring climate indicators in the North Pacific; evaluating the impact of changes on pinnipeds, seabirds, fish, and shellfish populations; and assessing potential socioeconomic implications for subsistence and commercial interests. Among those in attendance, it was apparent that there is a growing need for an improved predictive

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APPENDIX D 111 capability for stocks and a more detailed understanding of "natural" cycles versus changes induced by anthropogenic forcing. Attendees stressed that the committee should not only examine envi- ronmental matters, but also evaluate methods to moderate the cost and risk involved in fishing. Successful mitigation measures would increase the economic return to the local community. There was a plea for cessation of "emergency funding" in favor of long-term programs and a general consensus that traditional knowledge should be compiled in formulating research questions. KOTZEBUE Site visit participants suggested a strong need for a program to docu- ment the oral history (traditional knowledge) before it is lost. For instance, the mayor of Kotzebue commented that his generation is not trained in the use of the mnemonic devices that his parents' generation used to retain this history. Another major research need is a better understanding of beluga whales, particularly their migration routes and population surveys. Some participants believe that there has been a decrease in both the beluga whale population and blubber thickness. Other marine mammals about which the community expressed con- cern are ice seals and killer whales. Participants suggested that agencies do not invest heavily in research on ice seals or killer whales, and they are concerned about peculiar brown spots that have recently appeared in seal blubber. Since ice conditions correspond directly with successful hunting seasons, many were concerned about the prevalence of thin ice in the past four years. Some attributed this to climate change: "We know there is warming up here" was iterated in several forms more than once. There appears to be a strong oral history of terrestrial mammals, although records of marine species and fisheries are lacking. The only exceptions are good records of salmon stocks and a small shellfish record. Currently, there are enough fish to sustain the subsistence fishing commu- nities, although commercial fisheries are struggling. Of greater concern was the role of contaminants in relation to public health, although it was mentioned that acquiring funds for such research is difficult. DILLINGHAM Participants were nearly unanimous in their belief that the oceans are overgrazed, that single-species management of marine mammals and fish- eries is impractical and insufficient, and that the scope of future research should be expanded to regional and global scales.

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112 APPENDIX D The major focus of discussion was the sustainability of commercial and subsistence herring and salmon fisheries, both of which are managed in this region. Concerns arose regarding the interaction between herring and Steller sea lions, the lack of ecosystem-based assessments, unknown stock abundance, and age class structuring for forecasting. Typically, over the course of the herring fishery (10 days), there should be a decrease in catch size and fish weight. This pattern occurred in 2002. However, in 2003, large fish were caught well past the 10-day time inter- val. The reason for this anomaly is unknown, because there are not adequate ancillary data. Local fishermen noted a decline in the salmon run (specifically sock- eye). Salmon populations have declined previously, although fishermen believe prior decreases were a consequence of overfishing by foreign fishing fleets. The recent decline is thought to be of a different nature. One potential cause is related to beluga whales; coastal erosion has chan- neled the flow of the local river from a divided river mouth through a single outlet. Since beluga whales (a salmon predator) sit at the mouth of the river, predation of salmon (and thus mortality in the ocean environ- ment) may have increased. The committee was informed that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is conducting some studies on the marine stage of the juvenile salmon life cycle. Participants identified climate change as another issue pertinent to the salmon fishery. Through the 1980s, salmon returns correlated with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, although no causative link was deter- mined. Another worry expressed was the lack of knowledge about inter- actions between farm-raised salmon and native species. Two other important fish species in the region are smelt (forage and harvesting) and capelin (forage). Neither population is currently studied because proposals to investigate forage species have rarely been funded. The need to monitor seabird and marine mammal populations and to determine the trophic structure of the ecosystem was evident. The produc- tivity and diet of seabirds is largely unknown. The body fat of ringed seals, walruses, and many whale species has decreased by approximately 50 percent. The opinion of indigenous elders is that changes in water temperature have displaced fish populations. For example, diving bird mortality rates increased dramatically during a warm-water spike that relocated pollock fisheries 600 miles from their expected position. The gray whale population numbered in the hundreds five years ago; today there are roughly ten animals. The reasons for these declines are unknown. An organized effort to keep the Bristol Bay ecosystem intact has been sustained, although funding problems are emerging. Data collected at the local airport are the most reliable and extensive record of regional cli-

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APPENDIX D 113 mate, although the University of Washington Fisheries Institute may have some intermittent weather information. A continuous, five-year record of water temperature in the Togiak River is also available. Despite these minimal data, the locals can provide information from the last century on a day-to-day basis. All those in attendance agreed that more collaboration among funding agencies, researchers, and local communities is necessary, although a degree of mistrust and possessiveness continues to hamper communication. FAIRBANKS The topical discussions here centered on the need for more nearshore work, particularly in the Bering and Beaufort Seas. These areas were implicated as critical habitats for marine mammals and fish, including those important to the subsistence economy and commercial industry. The Bering and Beaufort Seas are believed to link the ocean to terrestrial and freshwater systems. These regions remain largely understudied; there is a need for knowledge of the varying aspects of the entire ecosystem. The Bering and Beaufort Seas exhibit large seasonal variations, prompting concerns about the sensitivity of these regions to climate change. Specific issues shared with the committee included the effect of decreasing ice cover on commercial and subsistence activities, shellfish contamination and sustainability, harmful algal blooms, and gray whale habitats. The effects of deep-sea production on the ocean ecosystem also emerged, such as vents found along the Aleutian Islands (influencing fish and sperm whale populations). Many complained that the proposal review and funding process has to be revamped completely, based on a perception that the current process is unfair and biased. Researchers in attendance emphasized that the schedule should be revised to accommodate the length of time necessary between allocation of funding and planning for the field season. Participants advocated that coastal communities are an important, and underutilized, source of knowledge and support. Subsequently, all agreed there is a need for partnerships among indigenous peoples, local and federal governments, industry, and research entities. ANCHORAGE The overarching theme of the comments, questions, and opinion expressed by those in attendance was that the long-term impact of fish- eries on the regional ecosystem should be studied on a larger scale. There is a need to move beyond single-species management to determine how

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114 APPENDIX D fish and marine mammals interact with the entire ecosystem, presenting the challenge of determining the role (i.e., trophic level) of each species in the environment. In this region, there is a small commercial coho fishery, but the chum and king salmon fisheries no longer exist. Consequently, many partici- pants focused on identifying the reason for the decline in salmon popula- tions and criticized commercial salmon hatcheries for fear that farmed salmon might displace native stocks. The need to preserve the genetic diversity of salmon was stressed. Concern was also expressed about the management of rockfish communities and about the effect of boat traffic on local whale populations. The identification of essential fish habitats was mentioned as a priority by many in attendance. Data from observers on board vessels may pro- vide information about the location of essential fish habitats (e.g., relative quantities of bycatch), although these data are not in an accessible form. Improved training for observers is necessary so that species are identified accurately. Monitoring bottom trawlers and improving nearshore mapping were also concerns. The prevalence of seafood contamination was highlighted by examples of discoloration of seal meat and whale blubber. There are few (if any) local laboratories to address these issues; apparently there is some distrust of laboratories outside Alaska. An increase in the incidence of cancer among the local population and an increase in the occurrence of parasites in salmon have intensified public health concerns. Cruise ships were mentioned as a source of pollution, allegedly dumping waste and disrupting seals with their pups; a 14 percent decline in seals has been recorded in affected areas. A representative from BP gave a detailed testimony of its research on the environmental impacts of oil extraction on the North Slope. Due to declining oil production, the company has no long-term interest in the area and is reducing the amount of money it allocates to its North Pacific pro- grams. However, BP is favorably disposed to partnership with researchers. It is likely that BP has more long-term data on marine mammals than any agency or university, including the state and federal governments. The NPRB must avoid duplicating studies, and collaborative efforts should be explored with Russian researchers. Moreover, the availability of information should be universal. For example, it was suggested that observer program data be released by the U.S. Department of Commerce and by other involved institutions. The need for dissemination of information, particularly of scientific results to the public, was stressed. It was also noted that although web- based initiatives allow rapid transmission of data, not all Native villages have access to these technologies.

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APPENDIX D 115 BETHEL The variability of salmon runs and the recent decline of the chinook salmon fishery were the dominant concerns among participants. Partici- pants suggested that subsistence harvesting of chum salmon has been trending downward and the commercial fisheries in the region have collapsed as escapement has declined. Locals believe that the decline of salmon relates to the ocean going period of the salmon life cycle. Salmon spend approximately 90 percent of their life in the sea, yet there is little understanding of what happens to them during this period. The need for information about all aspects of the salmon life cycle and knowledge of the factors potentially causing the variable run cycles were deemed top priorities by those in attendance. Others suggested that salmon escapement was being hindered by a continuing decrease in the water level of the Kuskokwim River, which was being exacerbated by the construction of beaver dams. The influence of climate change was also questioned since the mortality and morbidity of some salmon species varies with water temperature. The need for improved technology to track salmon runs as they pass up river was mentioned. In this context, some were concerned with research priorities, arguing that money spent on Steller sea lions was unreasonable, particularly given the decline in fisheries and the resulting impact on the socioeconomic welfare of the region. Participants suggested that the mortality of thousands of puffin birds in 1997 might have been an ecosystem response to similar processes causing the fisheries decline. It was noted that there is a large percentage of contaminated birds residing in the area, and this may be affecting fish- eries as well. Attendees speculated that pollution from sewage, litter, and oil and gas dumps may be the root cause. There are no data concerning the impact of the contaminated birds and environmental pollution on people. There is a need for a holistic approach to research in the region. Envi- ronmental studies should relate to the entire ecosystem, and economic and social science research on the subsistence economy should involve a long-term (generational) perspective. Traditional knowledge resides to a large extent in elders, and there is a need to record and synthesize this information immediately. The committee was warned that traditional knowledge can be abused by some local peoples, but accurate accounts of oral history are a valuable resource. A discrepancy between management practices and Native values was evident, as was the necessity to improve the ability of indigenous groups to compete for funds. It is difficult for local organizations to find money for research; capacity building among these organizations to write successful proposals was cited as a specific

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116 APPENDIX D way to address this issue. The Bering Sea ecosystem may present an opportunity to utilize traditional ecological knowledge. SEATTLE One participant dwelt at length on salmon interception at sea. It was alleged that this activity was occurring on a much greater scale than offi- cially acknowledged. The need to investigate this was strongly empha- sized. Written material about this matter was distributed. The testimony from people representing the fishing industry stressed the economic benefits of the new management arrangements for Alaska pollock (the so-called fisheries cooperatives authorized by the American Fisheries Act). Recovery rates in the industry have improved, and fishing seasons have become longer, with better utilization of fleet capacity. The usefulness of observers on board fishing vessels was emphasized. Industry representatives confirmed the unwillingness of industry to provide information on costs and revenues of individual companies but argued that economic analysis of the fishery could go a long way by using generic data. Industry people did not see much of a role for research on markets; this is something the industry is doing in its own interest.