Unsupported Browser Detected

Internet Explorer lacks support for the features of this website. For the best experience, please use a modern browser such as Chrome, Firefox, or Edge.

Assessing Community and Regional Vulnerability to Ocean Climate Conditions

Social scientists are working with coastal communities in Alaska to evaluate sensitivity to ocean acidification and other aspects of change, and evaluate adaptation opportunities and barriers.

Photo showing fishing boats docked in the foreground, buildings in the middle ground, and snowy mountains in the background under blue skies. The fishing community of Sitka, Alaska. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Marysia Szymkowiak.

Fisheries are the lifeblood of many Alaska coastal communities, serving as the cornerstone of community life, employing thousands of individuals, and providing for critical food security.   

Nationally, Alaska fisheries account for more than 60% of the catch by weight in U.S. fisheries, worth over $4 billion. Six of the nation’s top ten fishing ports, ranked by value of landings, are located in Alaska. In addition, recreational fisheries provide important economic benefits for numerous coastal communities throughout the Gulf of Alaska by generating local tourism revenues.

From left to right: view of Kodiak Marina, Homer, Sitka, and Hoonah
From left to right: Kodiak. Credit: NOAA Fisheries. Homer, Sitka, and Hoonah. Credit: Alaska Sea Grant.

Warming water temperatures and ocean acidification (the uptake of excess CO2 from the atmosphere that results in a decreasing pH) pose significant potential risks to various marine fisheries due to potential adverse impacts on reproduction, prey availability, and habitat. These changes pose socioeconomic risks to Alaska communities and industries. As ocean conditions continue to change, individuals, communities, and managers at all levels (from small business owners to community and tribal leaders and state and federal regulatory agencies) will need tools to comprehensively examine how management decisions will affect a range of coastal marine ecosystems, industries, communities, and initiatives.

This project is an effort for researchers to work with community members and local industry representatives to co-develop network models that capture the links between and among environmental drivers, ecosystems, and economic and social systems. Local residents will assist in characterizing network links such as social, cultural, and economic dependencies on marine resources and adaptive capacities and strategies. These models will be used to evaluate potential adaptation strategies and identify barriers to engaging in adaptation.

This work will take place primarily in four Gulf of Alaska communities with unique blends of marine resource industries and subsistence harvests: Kodiak, Homer, Hoonah, and Sitka. In addition to the community-centered approach, a regional socioeconomic impact model will be used to translate biological projections into future seafood landings, mariculture production, and availability of marine resources for subsistence and recreational users and other marine industries.

This project is a collaboration between NOAA-Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Alaska Sea Grant, Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

This project is funded in part by NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program.

For additional information, or to provide input into this project, contact Dr. Thomas Hurst (thomas.hurst@noaa.gov)