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.
Latest Updates (June 20, 2023)
AFSC researchers have been working in partnership with the Prince William Sound Economic Development District and Cordova community members to understand the vulnerability of Cordova’s fishing economy to climate change. Through a series of small group discussions this spring, the community identified the multidimensional nature of climate risk across six community capitals. See more information.
Since May of 2021, researchers from NOAA and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission have been working with fishing communities across the Gulf of Alaska to understand perceptions of ecological change, responses to those changes, and what is needed for long-term resilience. Through interviews and workshops, scientists have engaged with fisheries stakeholders from 10 Gulf of Alaska fishing communities. The work has been presented to State legislators, throughout fishing communities, across numerous NOAA forums, and to the National Academy of Sciences.
From Climate to Communities - GOA-CLIM Theme 3
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.
There are three fundamental questions to understand how climate change will impact the Gulf of Alaska social-ecological system
- How will fishing fleets respond to climate change?
- How will those responses affect fishing communities?
- 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 research portfolios 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, this project will use a Southwest Alaska regional economic model called 10 region multi-regional social accounting matrix (10MRSAM) model. A web tool (https://nwecon.psmfc.org/) made based on this model was published in 2022. This model will link 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- Understanding climate resilience pathways for Gulf of Alaska fishing communities
- This research portfolio provides insights on human adaptation to climate change to inform the fleet dynamics and fisheries management model and the community economic model. Stakeholder input through an ongoing series of community workshops is critical to this component. Project Lead: Dr. Marysia Szymkowiak; Research Assistant: Andrew Steinkruger
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.
Understanding climate resilience pathways for Gulf of Alaska fishing communities
With many adverse climate-driven impacts projected to continue, accelerate, and potentially synergize, the Gulf of Alaska faces substantial climate risk. Climate change is dramatically altering the marine ecosystem of the region with downturns in several valuable fisheries, decreasing fish sizes, changes in salmon run timing and strength, and algal and jellyfish blooms. Across the many geographically isolated and fishing dependent communities within the Gulf of Alaska, such losses may be devastating for fishermen and their communities that lack economic diversity, make it difficult to maintain fishing-dependent food systems, and erase cultural fishing practices that cannot be replaced.
Researchers are developing a baseline understanding of climate attribution, resilience pathways, and adaptation planning in highly fishing-dependent but geographically isolated communities. This research employs mixed methods to examine climate-driven changes, vulnerabilities, and adaptation pathways in Gulf of Alaska fishing communities, including:
- A participatory approach with fisheries stakeholders across Gulf of Alaska fishing communities discussing perceptions of ecosystem change, responses to those changes, and what is needed for broader resilience
- Analysis of public comments to fisheries management bodies examining the intersection of climate discourse with the use of science and policy recommendations.
- Evaluation of community-level adaptive capacity within formal community planning documents (climate, comprehensive, and hazard management plans)
Gulf of Alaska Fishing Communities and Climate Change Adaptation, presentation to the National Academies Ocean Sciences Board, May 2023
How Do We Talk About Resilience in PWS?, presentation to the Prince William Sound Economic Development District Annual Meeting, January 2023
Adaptation planning 101 for fisheries businesses, presentation for the Prince William Sound Economic Development District Annual Meeting resilience series “Keeping the Lights On: Business Resiliency for Navigating Shocks or Natural Disasters”, December 2022
Social science research on Alaskan coastal communities under climate change, presentation to the Alaska State Legislature House Fisheries Committee, April 2022
Gulf of Alaska Fishing Communities and Climate Change Adaptation, presentation to ComFish Alaska, March 2022
Over the last three decades, fishing families in the Gulf of Alaska have adapted to numerous multifaceted conditions in response to near constant flux in stocks, markets, governance regimes, and broader sociocultural and environmental changes. Based on an analysis of seven focus groups held across Gulf of Alaska fishing communities, this study explores the variety of strategies that families in the region have employed to adapt to changing conditions from the 1980s to present day. While families continue to employ long-standing adaptation strategies of fisheries portfolio diversification and increasing effort, they are also integrating new adaptations into their framework as changing management systems, demographics, and technologies shift how choices about adaptations are made.
An analysis of public comments on state fisheries management in the Gulf of Alaska, with 18,422 comments by 5715 commenters from 2010 through 2021, indicates climate change becomes more prominent in discourse with extreme marine heatwaves. However, attribution and cognitive dissonance processes result in entrenchment of polarizing viewpoints between user groups on fisheries allocations and enhancements. Yet some adaptation pathways emerge that bridge fishing identities with empowered conservation.
Following the extensive marine heatwave in the North Pacific from 2014 to 2016, known as the “Blob”, sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) had a historically unparalleled juvenile recruitment class that is now dominating the stock composition. While this recruitment class bodes well for future fisheries, it is currently undermining the value of the fishery with limited incentives to retain the smaller and less valuable fish, compounding adverse effects on earnings in the fishery due to whale depredation that has been occurring for years. This study examines the well-being implications of fishermen’s adaptive strategies to these ecosystem conditions within the Alaska sablefish fishery using a socio-ecological system framework, operationalized as a qualitative network model (QNMs) and quantitative indicators.
Please contact Dr. Szymkowiak if you want to provide input, firstname.lastname@example.org.