Salmon Experts Meet to Decipher Mysterious Declines

ANCHORAGE, Alaska , April 15, 2005 (ENS) - Salmon biologists, habitat specialists, fisheries and agency managers and international leaders from five nations will gather on Sunday for an in depth look at ways to conserve and manage salmon throughout the North Pacific.

The four day State of the Salmon 2005 conference brings stakeholders together to tackle what may be the largest issue facing one of the most important fisheries in the world - lack of information.

"Salmon and the people charged with managing them are facing increasingly complex challenges," said conference keynote speaker Fran Ulmer, former Lieutenant Governor of Alaska and now director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research, at the University of Alaska- Anchorage. "We need more reliable science and the ability to share it across national boundaries in order to be effective stewards of our treasured salmon runs."

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year on local and regional salmon research and conservation throughout the North Pacific yet the distribution of salmon is shrinking across their entire range and extinctions are marching northward. Explanations for these changes remain elusive.

"Declining salmon runs in western Alaska, where most habitat remains pristine, is clearly a warning sign. Even more alarming is our inability to explain why," says Dr. Xanthippe Augerot, co-director of State of the Salmon, the non-profit consortium which organized the four-day summit.

"Through collaboration and convening the best talent available, we hope to set the stage for successful salmon conservation and management for decades to come," said Augerot.

At the conference, State of the Salmon will introduce its international monitoring strategy, a new framework that will accommodate and synthesize data from around the North Pacific in a panoramic perspective of status and trends. That big-picture view will foster better management decisions in the future and enable salmon managers to adapt in the face of climate change and other threats, the organizers say.

"Until now, the process for putting the pieces of the salmon management puzzle together has been very expensive and time consuming," says Dr. Phil Mundy, former Chief Fisheries Scientist for the Division of Commercial Fisheries of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "The State of the Salmon monitoring strategy builds a process that can improve the future of salmon management by fostering a new level of cooperation and collaboration. Alaska has the opportunity to continue its tradition of leading the way in salmon management by joining this effort."

In Alaska the fishing industry is the state's largest private employer. Salmon fishermen earned $162 million or about 17 percent of the total amount Alaskan fishermen received for their catch in 2002.

State of the Salmon chose to convene its international conference in Anchorage because Alaska is the center of the range for Pacific salmon, which spans six countries: Russia, Canada, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and the United States.

Since 1982, Alaska has been responsible for more than 40 percent of the Pacific salmon catch. Sustaining Alaska's salmon economies is embedded in the state constitution and Alaska's fishery managers are empowered to make local harvest decisions; elsewhere in the United States, managers do not have the authority.

More information and a complete conference agenda at: http://www.stateofthesalmon.org