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Review of the Draft Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon 5 Specifics of the Research and Restoration Plan The emphasis throughout the draft research and restoration plan has been one of declining stocks. Even during the period of general declines, some stocks remained stable and some even increased. Might there be some ecological insights gained by comparing those that have done well with those that have not? In addition, in very recent years, many stocks have had large increases in abundance. To encourage the most efficient approach to these issues, we suggest that a portion of the money invested in this program in the early rounds of funding emphasize gathering data from any repositories within ADF&G, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serive (USFWS), and tribal offices. Some of these data might not be in electronic format, and so, for retrospective analyses (which should be part of many SSI projects) data identification, verification, documentation, and archiving will be useful. Data quality should be assessed in any retrospective analyses. Relative to this latter point, as an example, one bit of correlative information that might be developed is to determine whether the False Pass fishery is affecting river catches. This could be accomplished by correlating catches in the False Pass fishery and in rivers over the years to look for a relationship that might be explored in more-quantitative detail if one emerges. Given the short time frame, relatively modest budget, and the need for understanding broad-scale field patterns to guide future research, it makes sense for some initial RFPs to be directed toward the compilation, sharing, and analysis of existing data.
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Review of the Draft Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon SCIENTIFIC AND ADMINISTRATIVE LEADERSHIP Running even a modestly funded research program will require that a significant portion of the budget, or additional support from partner agencies, be devoted to administrative matters and scientific guidance (such as directing peer review the synthesis of information, data management, and so on). The current members of the Scientific and Technical Committee, highly qualified as they are, all have full-time positions with other agencies. As a result, they cannot always focus their full attention on the science needs of the plan, and their agencies have responsibilities beyond the AYK SSI. In addition, a committee is not normally the best mechanism for providing executive leadership. To provide coordination, vision, and leadership, this committee concluded that a fulltime science director should be hired as part of the SSI initiative. The science director’s duties would be to ensure coordinated research projects; to manage the various review processes required, including developing RFPs; and to provide scientific leadership for the AYK SSI’s research and restoration program. The director should not have other duties unless they are very strongly related to the direction of the research program, and she or he should not be in a position to compete for research funding from the program. Although providing the science director’s salary will reduce the funds available to support research directly, the committee concludes that the net result will be an improvement of the research program. Conflict of Interest As in all research-funding programs, it is important for the AYK SSI’s program to avoid the appearance and the reality of any conflict of interest. The NRC committee was troubled that persons primarily responsible for preparing the draft research plan, and especially the initial RFPs, also were competing for (and receiving) some of the research funds. Even though the research community in Alaska is smaller than it would be for nationwide competitions for research funds, this committee concludes that it nonetheless is large enough that such conflicts of interest can be avoided without jeopardizing the quality of the research and restoration program. In addition, of course, RFPs should be open to competition from outside Alaska. Having a full-time science director for the AYK SSI would help to alleviate the problem of conflict of interest,
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Review of the Draft Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon because the director could prepare the research plan and the initial RFPs and would be able to reduce the risk of conflicts of interest through peer review and other mechanisms. Regional Scientific Coordination Many research programs are under way in the region, and there is a need for a coordinating and synthesizing body. The AYK SSI draft plan talks about the need for partnerships and collaborations, and this committee endorses that idea. Whereas collaborations with scientists and organizations undertaking closely related work may require simply a joint meeting or two, other more-complex activities will require much more coordination. Currently, such a coordinating organization is evolving through the NPRB, and the AYK SSI is included (see www.nprb.org). The AYK SSI should participate in activities that enhance research coordination, such as those carried out by the NPRB and others. As the collaborating organization continues to evolve, it should consider the need for the coordination and support of meetings of stakeholders, users (subsistence, commercial, recreational), and managers and serve as an independent arbitrator in disputes between parties. There also is a need for communication with other agencies (ADF&G, USFWS, Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans, etc.) and other programs (Alaska Ocean Observing System, NPRB, etc.), perhaps through their oversight councils. Activities in this context might revolve around coordinating research, sponsoring mutually beneficial workshops, supporting an information-sharing Web site, developing coordinated research programs, and archiving data. Peer Review As Figure 3-1 of this report shows, peer review is needed at several stages of the implementation of the research and restoration plan to provide the program with credibility, independence, and sound scientific advice. Managing peer review is a process that requires time and money, and the AYK SSI Steering Committee will need to plan carefully and be creative in allocating resources and taking advantage of opportunities for partnerships to have sufficient funds for the purpose while retaining suf-
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Review of the Draft Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon ficient funds for research and restoration activities.1 Peer review will require written evaluations from those who are familiar with specific and general techniques, statistical analyses, data collection and management, the state of the science in the field of research being evaluated, and so on. It is likely that several people will be needed to provide these evaluations, and alternates will likely be needed in case of unavailability or the need for more than one review of a project. These reviewers (or a panel of reviewers) would rank the proposals; the science director would make the final decision. To avoid conflicts of interest, individuals should not review proposals for research funding in the same cycle in which they are also competing for funds, and they should not review proposals from their own organizations. BIOLOGICAL ESCAPEMENT GOALS The committee could not help noticing that escapement goals were not presented within the context of the AYK SSI science plan (save for the statement “Central to current management is the establishment of spawning escapement goals,” on p. 60, line 17). Escapement goals, set by the primary management agency, the ADF&G (itself part of the AYK SSI), dictate how fisheries are managed in real time during the fishing season. Because escapement goals affect the amount of salmon that can be taken, they are among the most important aspects of salmon management. Given that the central mission of the research and restoration plan revolves around research on and restoration of salmon in the region, close examination of current management practices would make excellent sense. In addition, as mentioned in Chapter 3, adaptive management requires an integration of management actions into a science plan. Therefore, it is important to understand how these escapement goals are set, how escapement goals and the productivity of managed stocks are related, to what degree population fluctuations in the salmon species could be related to previous rates of exploitation (as determined by escapement goals), and whether escapement goals can be related to the cur- 1 Recent agreement to share reviewing activities with NPRB and the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS) Trustee Council, as suggested by a survey initiated on December 7, 2005, is exactly what this committee had in mind when writing the above.
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Review of the Draft Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon rent status of the stocks of salmon in the AYK rivers. The research program should be designed to examine this and other management tools. DATA AND DATA MANAGEMENT Historical data on salmon abundance and the AYK environment are critical to the success of this science program. Currently, it is not clear how much information there is and how available it is. The metadata for the North Pacific gathered from various local, state, federal, and international programs are located at the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) Web site (http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/np/mdb/), which is an excellent initial source for the available data. The metadata will be helpful in generating requests for proposals that address potential testable hypotheses from the science questions contained in the research plan. We recommend that the metadata for the region contained in the North Pacific Ecosystem Metadatabase be assessed as a first step in the science program. In addition, that metadatabase should serve as a repository for AYK SSI metadata. A hallmark of this science program should be readily accessible sets of diverse fishery and environmental data. Earlier data, and data gathered with AYK SSI support, will be a valuable legacy of the program, and assurances are needed that the data will be cataloged, documented, archived, and made widely available. Use of a common database for relevant Alaska environmental data would reduce the efforts and costs of data management for all research programs in the region. We also recommend that the AYK SSI use the Alaska Marine Information System (AMIS) established by the NPRB (http://www.nprb.org/amis/index.htm/) to serve as a repository for the earlier data and new data gathered with the support of this program. All new data should be submitted to this database within a year of its collection. It would be helpful also to use the ADF&G Web site as a portal or data repository. LTK AND THE AYK Although the AYK SSI plan addresses the value of LTK in scientific research, it would be improved by a more-thorough integration of this idea throughout the report. An important goal of the AYK research and restoration effort is to enhance the grassroots process of delivering knowledge, improving management, and building local capacity for sus-
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Review of the Draft Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon taining the salmon resource. Making sure that LTK is covered throughout the plan should therefore be a priority in the drafting of the final revision. Defining and implementing the use of LTK is not easy, in part because different disciplines have different ways of studying and using LTK (Huntington 2005). One of the more-comprehensive recent definitions of LTK is that of Pierotti and Wildcat (2000): [it] is a body of knowledge built up by a group of people through generations of living in close contact with nature … [and includes] 1) respect for nonhuman entities as individuals, 2) the existence of bonds between humans and nonhumans, including incorporation of nonhumans into ethical codes of behavior, 3) the importance of local places, and 4) the recognition of humans as part of the ecological system … [and] is inherently multidisciplinary because it … is not only the basis for indigenous concepts of nature but also for concepts of politics and ethics. There are no clearly defined boundaries between philosophy, history, sociology, biology, and anthropology in indigenous thought. The role of LTK and capacity building is stated as a fundamental aspect of the scientific plan (pp. 12-13), which adds strength to the plan. In other parts of the document, however, LTK tends to be the final statement or final paragraph of various discussions; it appears to be an afterthought, often coupled with the concept of capacity building. While LTK and capacity building are linked in some ways, LTK should play a much larger role in the overall plan and should be communicated with greater clarity. For example, in Chapter 2 of the plan (Research Goals and Frameworks), LTK is left to the final paragraph. It is not discussed in the frameworks or in the figures specifically. We suggest the following revisions: Add the following assumption to the list in the conceptual foundation for the AYK SSI plan (p. 36): “Salmon and local people have traditionally been, and continue to be, closely connected in the AYK,” and therefore LTK can provide an important source of information on salmon dynamics in the region. Add the human component to the discussion of Framework 1 (p. 40). Humans are shown in Figure 2.1 but are not discussed in the text. Discussing humans in the text provides the context for LTK to be used as an information source.
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Review of the Draft Research and Restoration Plan for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (Western Alaska) Salmon Incorporate the role that LTK can play into the discussion of Framework 2. The plan currently says “The human community … sits at the heart of this conceptual framework” but does not indicate how LTK influences the process or the generation of information on salmon dynamics. Add the analysis of LTK to the discussion of Framework 3 and to Figure 2.3 (p. 43). It might be useful, for example, to have “Analysis of LTK” in the list of Analysis/Synthesis items in Figure 2.3. Incorporating LTK prominently into Chapter 2 is very important, especially since Research Theme 18, “Linking Local/Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Conventional Fisheries Research” (Chapter 3, pp. 58-59), becomes one of the highest-priority themes in the overall plan (Chapter 4, pp. 76-77). One has to read the document quite carefully to see that this theme actually does have the highest priority, because the description in the tables simply says “questions to be selected” beside Research Theme 18* (* added for highest priority). For all the other themes falling into the highest-priority category, the topics were concisely stated. Why is this not so for Theme 18? In short, LTK deserves much greater emphasis in the discussion of priorities and more clarity in the overall document. Finally, the use of LTK should be added to the “Types of Study Approaches” described on page 79. This section states, “LTK should be viewed as a potentially important source of information with application across multiple study approaches” (p. 80). Why only “potentially” when earlier in the chapter the linking of LTK to conventional fisheries research fell within the highest scientific priorities? And although this sentence appears, the use of LTK is not incorporated into the discussions of each study approach. LTK is mentioned (along with capacity building) in the discussion of monitoring (p. 80), but it is completely missing in the discussion of process studies (even though LTK could be used to develop and validate conceptual models and field studies specific to the AYK). The integration between LTK and conventional fisheries research should play a more dominant role in this overall section (4.6). LTK should be used to formulate hypotheses and design conceptual models that can be analyzed scientifically. In addition, LTK should be considered a critical component of historical data that are used in retrospective analysis or meta-analysis of past trends and processes. Finally, the development of new research methods that integrate LTK with ecosystem and fisheries models should be encouraged in RFPs. One example of such integration is a student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks working with a community on the Yukon River.
Representative terms from entire chapter: