Salmon Tipping Points

Thresholds in a changing environment Bioeconomic implications to inform adaptation decisions for Alaska’s salmon fisheries.

Alaska is expected to experience ocean acidification faster than any other coastal waters in the United States, primarily due to its colder water which absorbs more carbon dioxide than warmer waters. For Alaskans dependent on salmon and healthy oceans for subsistence, nutrition, and culture, increased ocean acidification is expected to have significant implications.

This project offers a step toward understanding how salmon may be impacted by a higher-acidity environment and other effects of climate conditions. We wanted to understand the potential for “tipping points” (i.e., environmental thresholds) which, once crossed, are difficult if not impossible to reverse. We focused on ocean conditions in the Gulf of Alaska and potential impacts on pink salmon. Additionally, we wanted to better understand the human ramifications of these effects – how human society might respond and the cultural and economic implications of the potential changes. Read the 4-page brochure summarizing the project.

The research included four key components:

Lab Study

We conducted an experiment looking at the direct effect of exposure to future ocean acidification conditions and the indirect effect of reduced food availability on juvenile pink salmon.

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Fisherman Engagement

We conducted key informant interviews with commercial salmon permit holders to help craft a survey to understand the factors that are most likely to influence fishermen’s choices to continue fishing the way they are now, modify their participation or leave the industry. 

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Salmon Data Synthesis

We studied the combined effects of changes in ocean conditions and salmon abundances on the productivity of wild pink salmon in PWS. Our goal was to understand whether wild pink salmon productivity has been associated with changes in ocean acidification, temperature, competition among pink salmon, and interspecific competition with other species of Pacific salmon.

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We used the results from the other components to develop and test a model looking at how management decisions and implementation of harvest rules affects harvest value given environmental variability, climate-driven regime shifts, and price volatility.

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Our Partners

Sponsors of the Salmon Tipping Points Project