Alaska's arctic and sub-arctic fisheries are among the most productive, sustainable, and profitable in the world, providing millions of people with healthy protein domestically and internationally. They are also home or a critical summer feeding ground for a number of whale populations like the endangered North Pacific right whale and the Cook Inlet beluga whale.
The Alaska Fisheries Science Center provides the science that underpins the sustainable management of U.S. commercial, recreational, and subsistence harvested fish and crab stocks from Alaskan waters. This science also helps protect marine mammal populations in Alaskan waters. Today, it is sharing its Strategic Science Plan.
Every 5 years, the Science Center revisits its strategic plan. This ensures that it aligns with Administration and national priorities while continuing to fulfill our regulatory mandates.
“Strategic planning is really essential to the wise use of federal funds and doing our jobs efficiently,” said Robert Foy, director, Alaska Fisheries Science Center. “Through this effort we are able to meet mission critical priorities with some room to be adaptive and responsive to our stakeholders’ needs and changing environmental conditions.”
Strategic Plan Priorities
The FY2023–FY2027 Strategic Science Plan outlines the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s overarching goals and objectives for the next 5 five years. It provides the basis for annual resource allocation planning when we receive our budget allocation from Congress.
Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s priorities for the next 5 years include:
- Monitoring and assessing Alaska fish, crab and marine mammal populations; fisheries; and marine ecosystems
- Monitoring and predicting climate impacts on Alaska marine life
- Advancing new initiatives including aquaculture and ‘omics and new technologies such as: Artificial Intelligence, Uncrewed Systems (UxS), electronic monitoring technologies, satellite remote sensing, tagging technologies, and multi-spectral imaging to support our scientific programs and research projects
“By exploring the use of new technologies in key areas, increasing efficiencies and streamlining business processes, we hope to maintain our diverse research portfolio so we can deliver the science needed to monitor, understand and predict changing Alaska ecosystems,” said Jeremy Rusin, deputy director, Alaska Fisheries Science Center. “We want to strike the right balance—curtailing effort in some areas while investing in strategic areas with a goal of achieving greater efficiency in the long run.”
Through this effort, the Alaska Fisheries Science Center hopes to be better positioned to face the challenges of implementing an increasingly complex mission.
We will use the plan in FY22 as a basis for advance planning for FY23.
Alaska Fisheries Science
The Arctic and sub-Arctic waters that surround Alaska have experienced unprecedented warming events over the past several years. Under various climate change projections these warming events are expected to increase in frequency, duration, and intensity in the future. NOAA Fisheries has long-standing research surveys and data collection efforts through independent fisheries observers. This information is coupled with catch and effort data from the fishing industry. It has made it possible for us to observe how these warm conditions affect the marine ecosystems and the people who depend on them in the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, and in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
“It’s also about having the in-house capabilities to process and analyze the data that is collected,” said Foy.
With these capabilities, scientists can better understand and detect important changes for fish, crabs, and marine mammals at different stages of their lives:
- Growth and mortality rates
- Predator-prey relationships
- Abundance and trends (whether populations are increasing or declining over time)
With this data we are developing sophisticated models to bring together biological, oceanographic, socio-economic, ecosystem, and climate data. The goal is to help resource managers take steps now and in the future to sustain, recover and protect fish, crab and marine mammal populations. By combining our efforts and supporting Alaska’s coastal communities and fisheries through scientific research we hope to ensure resilience to potential changes in the future.