1
Introduction

No, a thousand times no; there does not exist a category of science to which one can give the name applied science. There are science and the applications of science, bound together as the fruit to the tree which bears it.—Louis Pasteur, 1871

BACKGROUND

Alaska salmon and other marine and freshwater fish have been critical to the survival of the people and wildlife in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (AYK) region (Figure 1-1) for thousands of years. Salmon and people probably arrived in the region 10,000 years or more ago (Adovasio and Page 2002). Their relationships are complex and intense. Salmon influence the structure of human societies in the region and the places where people live (Glavin 2000); humans, through their various activities, affect the lives and numbers of salmon. Modern technology and economies make it easier than it has ever been for people to deplete salmon populations.

The AYK region, which encompasses more than 40% of the state, includes the Norton Sound region, the watersheds of the Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers within Alaska, and the coast from the Bering Sea to the Arctic Ocean up to the Canadian border. For this study the area of concern was defined in the memorandum of understanding that established the AYK Sustainable Salmon Initiative (SSI). It includes the river drainages that flow into the Bering Sea north of Cape Newenham and south of Shishmaref (Figure 1-1), as well as the “near and off shore areas” adjacent to them. This committee has not assumed any sharp seaward



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Developing a Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon 1 Introduction No, a thousand times no; there does not exist a category of science to which one can give the name applied science. There are science and the applications of science, bound together as the fruit to the tree which bears it.—Louis Pasteur, 1871 BACKGROUND Alaska salmon and other marine and freshwater fish have been critical to the survival of the people and wildlife in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (AYK) region (Figure 1-1) for thousands of years. Salmon and people probably arrived in the region 10,000 years or more ago (Adovasio and Page 2002). Their relationships are complex and intense. Salmon influence the structure of human societies in the region and the places where people live (Glavin 2000); humans, through their various activities, affect the lives and numbers of salmon. Modern technology and economies make it easier than it has ever been for people to deplete salmon populations. The AYK region, which encompasses more than 40% of the state, includes the Norton Sound region, the watersheds of the Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers within Alaska, and the coast from the Bering Sea to the Arctic Ocean up to the Canadian border. For this study the area of concern was defined in the memorandum of understanding that established the AYK Sustainable Salmon Initiative (SSI). It includes the river drainages that flow into the Bering Sea north of Cape Newenham and south of Shishmaref (Figure 1-1), as well as the “near and off shore areas” adjacent to them. This committee has not assumed any sharp seaward

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Developing a Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon boundary to the region, but instead has considered all the marine areas used by salmon inhabiting the rivers between Cape Newenham and Shismaref in this study. In recent years, salmon landings and salmon runs in the region have been lower than they were in the 1970s and the 1980s (Figures 2-1, 2-2, 2-3). Those declines (either natural or human-induced and either reflecting long-term trends or shorter-term fluctuations) in the abundance of FIGURE 1-1 Map of Alaska, showing the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region. The region of concern for the purposes of this study includes the Yukon River drainage, the Kuskokwim-Goodnews drainage, and the drainages between Shishmaref in the north and Cape Newenham in the south. The area of study does not include North Slope drainages and the northern part of the Northwestern region drainages. Source: Adapted from USGS 2004.

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Developing a Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon salmon have created hardships for the people and communities that depend heavily on this resource. The reasons for the drop in salmon returns are not well understood, which makes it difficult for fishery managers and scientists to identify appropriate management actions. Potential factors that cause the declines likely involve aspects of the life cycles of the fish and their environments in freshwater and in saltwater as well as human impacts—mainly fishing—on salmon and their environments. STAKEHOLDER GROUPS AND THE AYK SUSTAINABLE SALMON INITIATIVE In response to the recent salmon declines, regional organizations have joined with state and federal agencies to form a partnership to co-operatively address salmon research and restoration needs. This partnership includes the Association of Village Council Presidents; the Tanana Chiefs Conference; Kawerak, Inc.; the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association; the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G); the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS); the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and additional Native, governmental, and nongovernmental organization ex-officio partner institutions. The AYK SSI was created through a $5 million congressional appropriation in 2002 to undertake an expanded research program toward gaining an understanding of the declines of salmon in the region and to support sustainable salmon management in the region. In 2003, an additional $5 million was appropriated and $3.5 million was added in 2004. An additional $5 million is in a FY 2005 appropriations bill, which has not been acted on as of July 2004. The funds are available for use through 2020. The AYK has a Steering Committee, which has broad policy responsibility, and a Scientific and Technical Committee (STC), which provides scientific and technical advice to the Steering Committee. The AYK region includes more than 100 communities, most of which strongly depend on subsistence. To help ensure that the appropriated funds target high-priority issues, an AYK Research and Restoration Plan is being developed by the STC of the AYK SSI. It is intended to identify the best way to investigate and understand the complexity of the system and ultimately to devise a means to anticipate or predict future runs of salmon. Currently available knowledge will be evaluated to assess where it is sufficient to guide harvest and management decisions. Areas with deficient knowledge will be targeted by research funded by

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Developing a Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon the initiative. A responsibility of the STC will be to prioritize the importance of different knowledge gaps. Then they will recommend the funding of projects based on technical merit and on the priority of the knowledge gap they address. The AYK SSI is directed by a seven-member steering committee that sets policy and allocates funds. The STC, an advisory committee of six independent scientists, is charged with developing a comprehensive research plan for the AYK region and providing review of technical research proposals for the steering committee. This project differs from other planning activities in the region in that it is broader in geographic scale and will include the Bering Sea, North Pacific, and western Alaska drainages; will coordinate among smaller-scale activities (Norton Sound, Yukon River, and Bering Sea); and will integrate across marine and freshwater disciplines. THE PRESENT STUDY To help the AYK SSI prepare the research and restoration plan, the help of the National Research Council (NRC) was requested by the STC of the AYK SSI. The committee’s statement of task is in Box 1-1. The committee is aware of research on the structure of the fishing industry, on processing, and on marketing (e.g., Link et al. 2003, Gilbertsen 2003, Marine Advisory Program 2003). However, it took its task to exclude social and economic research for its own sake. It considered BOX 1-1 NRC Committee Statement of Task The NRC committee will assist the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Sustainable Salmon Initiative (AYK SSI) in developing a high-quality, long-range restoration and research (science) plan for the AYK region. The committee will assess the current state of knowledge, describe ongoing research in the region, and identify research questions of greatest relevance to the region. It will outline essential components of a successful, long-term science plan, identify research themes that the science plan should be based on, and identify critical research questions within the research themes. The committee will later review the research and restoration plan drafted by the Scientific and Technical Committee of the AYK SSI.

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Developing a Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon social and economic research only to the degree that it seemed directly relative to the sustainability of salmon in the region. The committee held its first meeting September 27-30, 2003. During this meeting, it held public sessions in Bethel, St. Mary’s, and Aniak. The committee attended the AYK SSI workshop in Anchorage, November 18-20, 2003. Several committee members and staff also attended the Tanana Chiefs Conference Natural Resources Coalition meeting in Fairbanks, January 22-23, 2004. The committee held its next meeting February 2-6, 2004, which included public sessions in Nome and Unalakleet. More information about the meetings can be found in Appendix B. The committee is scheduled to produce two reports. In this first report, the committee is charged with providing insights from the AYK SSI workshop, briefings, public sessions, relevant science plans, published literature, and the committee members’ expertise to help the STC develop a research and restoration plan. This report outlines essential components of a successful, long-term science plan; summarizes other existing research plans for the region that are relevant to the AYK region; refines research themes related to the goals of the AYK SSI, around which the science plan can be organized; and identifies critical research questions that should be addressed within research themes. A benefit of a science plan is the insight for restoration that the research produces, and its application to restoration. That connection is described in this report as well. After the AYK SSI submits its draft research and restoration plan, the committee will produce a second report that reviews the plan. The NRC committee will evaluate the plan in light of concerns, themes, and questions identified throughout the study process; will recommend actions that agencies and universities can take to implement research programs that will address the plan; and will assess the ability of the plan, over time, to help understand the causes of the decline of these stocks and to provide for sustainable salmon management. SUBSISTENCE Subsistence as it applies to rural Alaska Natives is not easy to define, and its meaning is not easily retrieved from most dictionaries, which often include the adjectives “meager” and “mere.” Those adjectives are not appropriate for Alaska Native subsistence activities, which are integral parts of their way of life. Its importance is reflected in their

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Developing a Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon language and culture and in the placement of their settlements. It is a way of obtaining food, clothing, and other necessities; it is a way of life; it is a connection to the land and the water; and it has been encoded in state and federal laws, which protect it or give it priority over other resource uses. Reduced salmon runs reduce the opportunities for subsistence in the region. Simply importing groceries from outside the region, while it might provide essential calories, cannot satisfy the social, cultural, and economic deficits that result from a reduction of subsistence activities. The Alaska Native Interests Land Claims Act (ANILCA) of 1980 defines subsistence as “the customary and traditional uses by rural Alaska residents of wild, renewable resources for direct personal or family consumption as food, shelter, fuel, clothing, tools or transportation; for the making and selling of handicraft articles out of nonedible byproducts of fish and wildlife resources taken for personal or family consumption; for barter or sharing for personal or family consumption; and for customary trade.” Recently, the Federal Subsistence Board (FWS 2003a) has clarified that customary trade includes the selling of whole or processed subsistence products as long as the sale is not to a business or made by a nonrural resident. The following definition of subsistence by a group of the International Whaling Commission provides additional insight into the nature of subsistence to Alaska Natives: “Aboriginal subsistence whaling means whaling, for purposes of local aboriginal consumption carried out by or on behalf of aboriginal, indigenous or native peoples who share strong community, familial, social and cultural ties related to a continuing traditional dependence on whaling and on the use of whales.” This applies to the use of salmon as well as to the use of whales. In this report, we focus on subsistence mainly as an activity that takes fish, but a failure to understand the context of its integral and fundamental importance to Alaska Native ways of life and culture would make any discussion of it misguided at best. This description provides only the briefest introduction to subsistence in Alaska. A good introduction to subsistence in southwest Alaska is provided by Barker (1993). FISHING IN THE REGION Commercial, subsistence, and recreational fishing all occur in the AYK region. Commercial fishing is very different from the industrial-scale operations many people think of when they hear the term and that

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Developing a Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon occur elsewhere in Alaska. Often, the gear and boats used for commercial fishing are the same as those used in subsistence fishing, and the proceeds of commercial fishing subsidize subsistence fishing to a considerable degree. Most commercial and subsistence fishing is done with gill nets in and near the rivers. It takes place throughout the region, far into the interior. Most of the boats are small and are outboard-powered. Recreational fishing in the AYK region is not as widespread as it is in Bristol Bay and central Alaska drainages, and there are not as many anglers there as in many other parts of Alaska. This is related to the relative lack of facilities for anglers in the region. Nonetheless, some especially favored rivers and areas see considerable fishing pressure, with anglers usually guided by local or other outfitters and guides but sometimes self-guided. Some conflicts have occurred between members of local communities and recreational anglers from outside the region, but in some cases local communities provide the guiding and lodging services for anglers. UNDERSTANDING THE ECOSYSTEMS OF SALMON The committee concluded from its review of other research programs as well as from the members’ own experiences that the best way to develop a research plan is to begin with a model of how the system works. In the present case, the system can be defined in a variety of ways, each with a variety of possible boundaries. They include the biophysical system, the socioeconomic system, the sociocultural system, and the legal system as well as other possibilities. The committee has not tried to write a research and restoration plan; instead, its task is to advise the AYK SSI on how best to do that. Therefore, instead of picking one model of the system to develop its own ideas of important research questions, it has used three, which are discussed in detail in Chapter 4. The use of three models has the additional advantage that each provides different insights and can lead to different questions, although some of the questions that arise are common to all the models. REPORT ORGANIZATION Chapter 2 provides background information on salmon life history and fisheries issues in the AYK region. Chapter 3 explains historical and recent fisheries research in the region. Chapter 4 details the foundations

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Developing a Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon for developing a salmon research and restoration plan. Chapter 5 summarizes the committee’s conclusions and recommendations. Appendix A outlines the legal context of Alaska salmon fisheries, and Appendix B describes the committee’s open meetings and information-gathering sessions.