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Developing a Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon
The implementation of this research program should use monitoring, process studies, retrospective analyses, and theoretical studies. Models are useful tools in many of these research activities. In addition, adaptive management has the potential to be effective and to contribute to knowledge that could help to form the basis of a restoration plan. In many if not all cases, this would require the cooperation and involvement of management agencies, especially ADF&G. Management actions should be designed to include the gathering of scientific data; in other words, they should be thought of as if they were controlled experiments. In truth, management actions often are experiments, but they usually have poor or no experimental controls.
The resources required to address salmon variability in the AYK region are significant because the problem has a variety of geographical scales, and it has interdisciplinary aspects. Salmon variability could depend on very small-scale influences such as stream temperature or flow. It also might depend on oceanic conditions that affect the ocean carrying capacity of the Bering Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. Physical, biological, and chemical variations in the ocean, atmosphere, and terrestrial environment could play important roles. This is a large, complex problem, and the ecosystem will be continually changing. This daunting task is made easier through interactions with ongoing and future science programs in the region. The AYK SSI would benefit from coordinating with them, perhaps to the extent of joint funding of research projects. Examples of such programs include the North Pacific Research Board, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Gulf Environmental Monitoring Program, the Alaska Ocean Observing System, Ecosystem Fisheries Oceanography Coordinated Investigations, the Bering Sea Ecosystem Study, the Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey, the Norton Sound Sustainable Salmon Initiative, the United States/Canada Yukon River Joint Technical Committee Program, the World Wildlife Fund/National Science Foundation Program, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Arctic Program.
In addition, the committee recommends monitoring programs as being likely to provide useful information and having the potential to provide long-term data sets. Managing, coordinating, synthesizing, and making available the data collected by all these programs, including research funded by the AYK SSI, are important challenges that need careful consideration in any research plan.