|Salmon (x̲áat) are one of the most important traditional food sources for Hoonah residents and was among the first concerns listed by nearly all survey participants. According to ADFG reporting, 66 percent of households attempt or are successful in harvesting salmon. There is also a wide sharing economy around salmon, with 80 percent of households giving fish away and 60 percent receiving. Salmon are the second largest resource used by weight (second only to halibut). Local knowledge about changes in salmon run timing, strength, and health is abundant – when the rivers are down from dry spells there are fewer fish and the timing of those times greatly influences how many salmon make it up stream. Local users have also started noticing changes in the size and health of the fish they’re managing to catch, with several reporting that the salmon have been getting smaller recently and one fisher noting that the quality of the meat was significantly worse and the fish looked ill. Local users are also worried about salmon crossbreeding with hatchery fish, which also negatively impacts the health of the offspring and continued access to fish. When talking about how scarcity is becoming more common, tribal member Sonya Johnson said “back then [in her childhood] I got sick of fish cause it was all we ate. Now it’s just crazy how we have to ration ourself out [sic.].”|
INCREASING WATER TEMPERATURES STRESS SALMON AND INCREASE DEATH RATES.
Salmon are highly vulnerable to changes in water temperatures at all stages of their lives. Rising temperatures affect the timing of when salmon enter streams to breed and causes them to expend more energy moving upstream. High enough temperatures can also simply kill the fish before they make it to their destinations. Warm water also holds less oxygen than cold water, so if streams get too hot in the summer, the fish can suffer mass die-offs due to low oxygen levels. This is made even worse by high temperatures prompting algal blooms which lower the oxygen levels even more. Finally, salmon require more food in warmer waters since it speeds up their metabolism, and thus will need to eat more as the ocean temperatures rise. Given that many food sources of both juvenile and adult salmon are threatened by climate change, it is highly likely that salmon will struggle in all life stages to find enough food in the future.
CHANGES TO OCEAN CHEMISTRY DIRECTLY HARM SALMON AND THEIR FOOD SOURCES.
Ocean acidification poses multiple threats to salmon. Shelled pteropods make up half diets of juvenile pink salmon, and struggle to form their shells in more acidic waters. As a result of declining food sources, some populations of pinks in Alaska have been declining. Ocean acidification also directly threatens the development of juvenile salmon – coho that were exposed to elevated levels of CO2 no longer avoided predators because the lower pH damaged the way their brains could process smells. Those same salmon were able to recover when placed back in normal sea water though, meaning that if there are local areas with particularly favorable conditions, they may be able to serve as refugia even in more hazardous general conditions. A similar study also found that ocean acidification decreases the growth rates and general health of pink salmon but that if pH changes are relatively smooth the fish can adapt to their changing conditions.
CHANGES IN RAIN AND SNOW PATTERNS CAN TRAP FISH IN STREAMS AND KILL THEIR EGGS.
While total annual rainfall is likely to increase in Southeast Alaska, it is predicted to become more variable, meaning that there will likely be very dry periods wherein there is insufficient water in the rivers for the salmon to thrive. Low flows increase water temperatures, since shallow waters warm faster, and decrease the amount of oxygen available for the fish to breathe. At the same time, high-flow events are likely to become more severe; atmospheric rivers are expected to increase two-or three- fold by the end of the century and such events are one of the main threats to salmon eggs. When rain is restricted to fewer, more extreme storms, the fast moving water scours the bottom of streams and pushes eggs out of the sediment where they’ve been laid which increases the risk of predation and being swept into the ocean, both of which kill the eggs.
1.1: Continue salmon stream restoration projects through the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership
1.2: Encourage Hoonah youth to get involved in natural resource management projects
1.3: Continue documentation efforts of important spawning streams for protections through the Alaska Anadromous Waters Catalog through the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership and in collaboration with State partners.
1.4: Educate the community about negative impacts from increasing water temperatures
1.5: Use local knowledge to educate community members on how to adapt fishing strategies with changing salmon habitats; promote fishing in deeper waters
2.1: Invest time and funds in research on shellfish resiliency and strategies to promote kelp growth
2.2: Research Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation, and their efforts to mitigate climate change effects through an ocean micro-nourishment replenishment program
3.1: Work to reduce environmental stressors to salmon by limiting development, poor logging practices, pollution and erosion.
3.2: Monitor the effects of climate change on salmon, their habitats and local fishers.
3.3: Policy protection for small-scale and local resident fishermen and subsistence fishermen to maintain access to diminishing resources while limiting large-scale fishing harvests
3.4: Promote policies that limit charger fishing to maintain salmon for commercial and subsistence use
3.5: Investigate adaptation strategies stemming from the relationship between sockeye salmon, life stages, and electromagnetic fields
3.5.1: Consider attaching magnets to large fishing boats to reduce salmon bycatch