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Review of the Draft Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon Summary This is the second of two reports prepared by the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Review of Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Research and Restoration Plan for Salmon. The NRC was requested by the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (AYK) Sustainable Salmon Initiative (SSI) to help it develop a research and restoration plan to understand and reverse declines in salmon populations in the AYK region (Figure 1-1). To respond to that request (detailed statement of task in Chapter 1), this committee described in its first report what a research and restoration plan should contain and how it should be developed. (Appendix A has the summary of that report.) That report described three frameworks as examples for looking at the human–salmon problem. It recommended ways to develop and prioritize research questions based on the frameworks, and it discussed the relationship of restoration to the research. This report evaluates that plan. The plan is thoughtful and has much to commend it. However, it is longer than it needs to be, and the long section on salmon life history could be usefully replaced by a section that deals with factors that affect salmon productivity. The commendable principles of the research plan, the criteria for identifying research topics, and the intellectual model that the plan is based on are not well connected to the specific research questions that receive high priority, listed toward the end of the plan. In other words, it is not clear how the AYK SSI arrived at the questions from the principles. The committee’s specific conclusions and recommendations are provided in Chapter 6. In addition to the need for shortening, clarifica-
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Review of the Draft Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon tion, and a better explanation of how the research questions were derived from the principles, this committee also recommends the following: The relationship between the AYK SSI Salmon Research and Restoration Plan and other ongoing research programs in the region should be made clearer, including the degree to which the AYK SSI intends to depend on other programs’ information or to complement their research. Capacity building is well defined in the draft plan, but the plan should provide more specifics on how it plans to build capacity. This committee endorses the program’s approach of focusing early requests for proposals (RFPs) on retrospective analyses, based on the need to catalog, assemble, and synthesize existing data as an important early step in the program. Administration of this, like any, scientific program is a significant undertaking and requires the full attention of a dedicated and qualified individual. Therefore, the AYK SSI should hire a full-time, dedicated science director to manage the plan. There is insufficient separation between those who write the science plan and the RFPs and who evaluate research proposals, and the investigators who submit research proposals. As a result, there is some conflict of interest, which needs to be avoided. The draft research plan should focus more attention on management tools such as biological escapement goals, because they are critical to managing salmon fisheries and they affect sustainability. Metadata for the region contained in the North Pacific Ecosystem Metadatabase should be assessed early in the program. The plan does not adequately integrate the concept of local and traditional knowledge throughout the document. Local and traditional knowledge and capacity building, although related and both critical to the plan’s success, are distinct, and they should each be clearly communicated with more specifics on how to better integrate them into the plan. The committee is optimistic about the research and restoration plan and looks forward to seeing it develop important and timely results.
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