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World Scientists, Leaders to Take Unprecedented Look at North Pacific Salmon

April 13, 2005
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Four-day forum to address ways to research and manage mysterious declines

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Nearly 200 scientists, policy experts and decision
makers from five nations will gather this coming Sunday, April 17, in Anchorage for the most comprehensive look at ways to conserve and manage salmon throughout the entire North Pacific. The four-day State of the Salmon 2005 conference brings together biologists, habitat specialists, fisheries and agency managers and international leaders to tackle what may be the largest issue facing one of the most important fisheries in the world: the vast lack of information available to salmon scientists and managers.

“Salmon and the people charged with managing them are facing increasingly complex challenges,” said conference keynote speaker Fran Ulmer, former Lieutenant Governor of Alaska and now Director, Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Anchorage, Alaska. “We need more reliable science and the ability to share it across national boundaries in order to be effective stewards of our treasured salmon runs.”

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Scientific uncertainty has real implications for Alaska, where the fishing industry is the state’s largest private employer. Salmon fishermen earned $162 million or about 17 percent of the total amount Alaskan fishermen receive for their catch in 2002. The rivers of the Arctic, Yukon and Kuskokwim region are some of the least studied in Alaska, Gene Sandone of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game told the Anchorage Daily News in 2003. Consequently, in the 1980s and 1990s, managers couldn’t explain the decline in king and chum salmon runs in
those rivers, collectively known as the AYK.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year on local and regional salmon research and conservation throughout the North Pacific yet the distribution of salmon is shrinking across their entire range and extinctions are marching northward. Explanations for these changes remain elusive.

“Declining salmon runs in western Alaska, where most habitat remains pristine, is clearly a warning sign. Even more alarming is our inability to explain why,” says Dr. Xanthippe Augerot, Co-Director of State of the Salmon, the non-profit consortium which organized the four-day summit. “Through collaboration and convening the best talent available we hope to set the stage for successful salmon conservation and management for decades to come.”

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At the conference, State of the Salmon will introduce its international monitoring strategy, a new framework that will accommodate and synthesize data from around the North Pacific at a multitude of scales-which ultimately will give managers and scientists a panoramic perspective of status and trends. That big-picture view will foster better management decisions in the future and enable salmon managers to adapt in the face of climate change and other threats.

“Until now, the process for putting the pieces of the salmon management puzzle together has been very expensive and time consuming,” says Dr. Phil Mundy, former Chief Fisheries Scientist for the Division of Commercial Fisheries of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “The State of the Salmon monitoring strategy builds a process that can improve the future of salmon management by fostering a new level of cooperation and collaboration. Alaska has the opportunity to continue its tradition of leading the way in salmon management by joining this effort.”

State of the Salmon chose to convene its international conference in Anchorage because Alaska is the center of the range for Pacific salmon, which spans six countries: Russia, Canada, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and the United States. Since 1982, Alaska has been responsible for more than 40 percent of the Pacific salmon catch. Sustaining Alaska’s salmon economies is embedded in the state constitution and Alaska’s fishery managers are empowered to make local harvest decisions; elsewhere in the United States, managers do not have the authority. Keynote speakers for the State of the Salmon Conference 2005 are:

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-The Honorable John Fraser, Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation
Council

-Dr. Nathan Mantua, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of
Washington

-Ms. Fran Ulmer, Director, Institute of Social and Economic Research,
University of Anchorage, Alaska

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Please find more information and a complete conference agenda at:
http://www.stateofthesalmon.org/

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