Expert Report

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Declines in the abundance of salmon in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (AYK) region of western Alaska in the late 1990s and early 2000s created hardships for the people and communities who depend on this resource. Based on recommendations from a 2004 National Academies report, the AYK Sustainable Salmon Initiative (SSI) developed a research and restoration plan to help understand the reasons for this decline and to help support sustainable management in the region. This report reviews the draft plan, recommending some clarification, shortening, and other improvements, with a better focus on the relationship between the underlying intellectual model and the research questions, and a clearer discussion of local and traditional knowledge and capacity building.

Key Messages

  • Although the research plan addresses the importance of local and traditional knowledge (LTK), it does not adequately integrate the concept throughout the document. The plan also does not adequately distinguish the concept of LTK from that of capacity building.
  • As the draft plan recognizes, cataloging, assembling, and synthesizing existing data is an important early step that the program should take.
  • Historical and current information about salmon abundance have not been adequately assessed for quality, availability, and scope.
  • Many organizations are conducting research on related problems in the Alaska region. Not all these efforts are well coordinated.
  • The administration of this, like any, scientific program is a significant undertaking and requires the full attention of a dedicated and qualified individual or individuals.
  • The draft plan defines capacity building well, but it does not articulate how capacity building will either be incorporated into an RFP or as part of the program as a whole. It also does not address the educational components of capacity building
  • The draft research and restoration plan is thoughtful and in many ways insightful. However, the committee judges that it is too long and that the connections between the principles, goals, and conceptual models described at the beginning of the report and the specific research questions identified as high priority at the end of it are not clear.
  • The draft research plan barely mentions important management tools, such as biological escapement goals. Yet these tools depend on good scientific information and profoundly affect the sustainability of salmon in the region.
  • The relationships between the AYK SSI's research and restoration plan and the research being undertaken by other organizations in Alaska are not clear.
  • There is insufficient separation to avoid the appearance and reality of conflict of interest between the people who write the science plan and the RFPs and evaluate research proposals, and the investigators who submit research proposals.