Syposium raises research and funding questions

by Mark Arehart on October 25, 2012

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Chinook Symposium is over, but many questions about king salmon linger unanswered. Many presenting researchers said they did not know much about salmon once they get into the ocean and want to do more research to find out. All that new research will cost money, and where that will come from is also a big question.

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One of the main reasons for the symposium was to identify exactly what managers and biologists don’t know about Chinook Salmon.

They call the missing puzzle pieces gaps, and are working to formulate a “draft gap analysis” or a report stating all the things that they don’t know.

“Seeing that part of the gap analysis and some of the research and people’s, I think, really direct questions about what we don’t know about ocean conditions and the effect on salmon I think is really important. And one of the big parts of the equation,” said Tom Doolittle, who is with the Yukon Delta Wildlife Refuge in Bethel.

He said that climate change is another part of the King salmon equation.

“Well obviously we know from living in Western Alaska that we’ve seen dramatic changes in climate. And we know, especially from our coastal communities, how much climate change has affected their day-to-day lives. And it only makes sense that these changes affect forms of wildlife in the ocean.”

Coming out of the symposium, both federal and state researchers agree that more data is needed. But funding that research could be a pitfall.

“You’re going to hear from today that the federal government doesn’t have any money. We need other partners,” State Representative Bob Herron said. “And so Alaska, to protect it’s own resource, should have a broad research endowment.”

Herron said the state could invest a large sum of money and then fund Chinook research off the interest of that investment.

Such an endowment could conceivably be implemented by the state legislature and would be a good thing for the state, he said.

“What is Alaska about? What is our culture based about? It’s about salmon, it’s about seafood. It’s in our best interest to figure out what’s going on. How it’s affecting us. And how it’s affecting our financial and our subsistence security. I believe it can be done.”

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