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Gulf Of Alaska Climate Integrated Modeling Socioeconomics—From Climate To Communities

Economists and social scientists are examining fleet dynamics, community impacts, and adaptation potential in Gulf of Alaska fishing communities associated with Climate Change.

Photo of a boat filled marina in Kodiak, Alaska. A Kodiak, Alaska marina. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

There are three fundamental questions to understand how climate change will impact the Gulf of Alaska social-ecological system

  1. How will fishing fleets respond to climate change? 
  2. How will those responses affect fishing communities?
  3. What tools do stakeholders have and need to adapt to these new challenges?

These questions underpin the socioeconomic dimensions of the GOA-CLIM project, Theme 3 - “From climate to communities”.  

Economists and social scientists at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, University of Washington, and Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission will develop three interrelated models to address these questions:

  • Fleet dynamics and fisheries management model
    • This model will predict future fishery catch and ex-vessel revenue in response to changing ecosystem, economic, and management conditions.   Project Lead: Dr. Alan Haynie
  • Community economic model
    • To understand potential economic impacts on fishing communities, a model will be developed that links changes in future fishery ex-vessel revenues in response to climate change to the economies of GOA fisheries-dependent regions. Project Lead: Dr. Chang Seung
  • Adaptation model
    • This model will provide insights on human adaptation to climate change to shape responses that will be incorporated under the fleet dynamics and fisheries management model and the community economic model. Stakeholder input will be critical to informing this component and is currently being sought. Project Lead: Dr. Marysia Szymkowiak

Through this effort, researchers will link outputs from biological models to socioeconomic models that examine fleet responses, community impacts, and adaptation potential. In turn, the socioeconomic models will feed back into the biological models, reflective of a dynamic system, as shown below. 

Linking the biological and socioeconomic models

Infographic of the Gulf of Alaska showing biological, fleet dynamics/fisheries management, community economics and adaptation models.
Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Scientists hope to provide resource managers with insights about the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems and dependent communities, the effectiveness of existing fisheries management measures, and adaptive tools to help them plan for the future.

Adaptation Model - Researchers are seeking stakeholder input

Stakeholder input is critically important for informing researchers about the adaptation strategies that they are likely to employ in response to diverse climate change impacts. While researchers can use information about what has been done in the past to predict future responses, the dynamics underlying those choices are often not readily identifiable or predictable beforehand. That can limit the usefulness of predictions about the future. Researchers are seeking input from stakeholders on strategies they may adopt in response to changing ecological conditions due to Climate Change. Specifically this component of the project will examine several key research questions:

  • Image
    Photo of a darkened, boat filled, Sitka, Alaska marina at dusk.
    A marina in Sitka, Alaska. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
    What does adaptation look like across Gulf of Alaska communities?
  • What adaptation strategies will fisheries stakeholders use in the face of climate change?
  • What are the impediments to adaptation and adaptive capacity?

Dr. Marysia Szymkowiak, a Social Scientist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center based out of Juneau, is leading this effort. Her work will focus on examining the reasons underlying adaptive choices, potential impediments to adaptive capacity and how those may be addressed.  Adaptive behavior will be incorporated into the fleet dynamics and fisheries management model driving changes in the biological models from, for example, shifting spatial fleet distribution, catch composition, and bycatch. Adaptations can also alter the community economics model by shifting resources like labor and capital across industries. Stakeholder input and diverse viewpoints are being sought to develop this work. 

In order to examine adaptations, researchers have identified five highly engaged fishing communities in the Gulf of Alaska as case studies - Sitka, Petersburg, Homer, Kodiak, and Sand Point. These communities have highly diverse fishing and processing portfolios, representing a diversity of user groups. Examining adaptation potential and capacity within and across the communities will serve to illuminate similarities and differences in how Gulf of Alaska communities more broadly may approach adaptation to climate change.

Please contact Dr. Szymkowiak if you want to provide input,