Harvesters to NOAA: Ecosystem-based solutions are needed

Recommendations for climate-resilient fisheries include a reduction in carbon emissions

Federal officials looking for recommendations on how to achieve climate-resilient fisheries are being advised, by a group representing thousands of commercial fishermen, that such decisions should be locally defined and drafted to support local livelihoods.

The recommendations to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration came from collaborators led by the Salmon Habitat Information Program, which is affiliated with SalmonState, and Alaska Fishing Communities Coalition.

Their recommendations ranged from ocean-based climate solutions that are ecosystem and science-based to the reduction of carbon emissions.

The group told NOAA fisheries that climate issues must be considered in all fisheries management decisions and that managers should be provided with tools to respond quickly to extreme events.

Other recommendations included an improved reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act and a commitment to social justice and public health, while simultaneously spurring economic growth in commercial fisheries.

They also called for a reduction in carbon emissions to achieve climate-resilient fisheries by slowing the trajectory of ocean acidification, marine heatwaves, coastal erosion and lower oxygen levels in the ocean.

They reminded NOAA that Alaska fisheries and fishing communities experienced persistent unusually high water temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea in 2018 and 2019, wider swings in precipitation ranging from drought to flooding, both of which disrupt salmon life cycles and shifts in abundance and range of economically and culturally important marine fish and shellfish species.

Climate change events have had a direct impact on fisheries, resulting at times in die-offs of mature adult salmon, changes in the availability of prey for salmon at all life stages, shifts in predator populations and ranges, water temperatures that exceed survivable limits, scouring of anadromous spawning beds due to flooding, and loss of spawning and rearing habitat due to drought, plus periods of abnormally high temperatures in summer months.

Before putting conservation measures in place for watersheds and oceans, the government should consult with the people most dependent upon these resources for food security and for economic and cultural reasons, they said.  Entities that could provide some of this leadership include tribal governments, the Interior Department’s Subsistence Regional Advisory Councils, the 84 locally based Alaska Department of Fish and Game advisory committees, borough councils for fishing communities and community-based fisheries organizations and businesses, they said.

The letter of recommendations was signed by the Aleut Community of St. Paul, the city of St. Paul, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., Tanana Chiefs Conference, Yukon River Inter-tribal Fish Commission, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association , Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, Sitka Salmon Shares, Taku River Reds, Alaskans Own and SalmonState.