Milestone Gulf of Alaska salmon study set for winter 2019

Alaskans will celebrate Alaska Wild Salmon Day on August 10, but plans also are underway for a much bigger celebration: the International Year of the Salmon is set to begin in 2019. The theme is “salmon and people in a changing world” and a focus will be a winter salmon study in the deepest regions of the Gulf of Alaska.

The salmon-centered year is a project launched by the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization and North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, which for 25 years has promoted research collaboration among scientists in its five member countries — Canada, Russian, Japan, Korea and the United States.

“The main inspiration for development of this project is our awareness of the challenges salmon meet in the open ocean related to the climate and in the coastal areas,” said Vladimir Radchenko, commission director and one of the world’s leading salmon scientists.

The primary goal of the project is to get more people involved in protecting salmon and coastal societies. The aim of the gulf study, Radchenko said, is to better understand the ocean phase of the salmon life cycle. Doing so would improve knowledge to help forecast salmon abundance and carrying capacity of the North Pacific.

Researchers have some fragmented understanding of salmon distribution in the deep gulf area from several surveys starting in the late 1980s. But the surveys were small and the results contradictory, Radchenko said. The project set for next winter will be done with trawl gear and cover a vast area in international waters, 200 miles from shore.

Based on the survey results, Radchenko said researchers “may conclude the current state of the salmon stocks which spend the winter in the Gulf of Alaska.”

The 2019 winter survey will include scientists from all member countries and is set to be the first of many, depending on funds.

About the author

Laine Welch is an independent Kodiak, Alaska-based fisheries journalist. Click here to send her an email.

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