• Effects of climate variability and fishing on gadid-crustacean interactions in subarctic ecosystems

      Marcello, Laurinda; Mueter, Franz; Eckert, Ginny; Kruse, Gordon (2011-12)
      Snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) are a vital economic and biotic resource to many subarctic ecosystems. Their abundance varies greatly, but what causes large changes in production and early life survival is unknown. My overall goal is to improve our understanding of snow crab population dynamics during early life history stages. Chapter 1 provides background information on subarctic ecosystems, addresses possible mechanisms of population control and potential drivers of variability, describes snow crab life history, and reviews recent population trends in snow crab and their major cod predators. Chapter 2 details a regression study examining the effects of snow crab spawning stock biomass, environmental conditions, and Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) or Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) biomass on snow crab recruitment. This study compares three ecosystems: the eastern Bering Sea, the Newfoundland-Labrador Shelf, and the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Cold ocean conditions during early life history were associated with increased snow crab recruitment or recruitment indices in all three ecosystems. However, there was no consistent observed effect of spawning stock biomass or gadid predation on subsequent recruitment. The dominant role of environmental conditions in driving snow crab recruitment highlights the importance of an ecosystem-based management approach for these stocks.
    • Subsistence salmon fishing in Beaufort Sea communities

      Cotton, Shelley S.D.; Carothers, Courtney; Craighead George, John (2012-12)
      Environmental change, combined with observations of increasing numbers of salmon in subsistence fisheries, has generated a need for more information about salmon use, abundance, and distribution in the Arctic. Ethnographic research was conducted in Barrow and Nuiqsut, Alaska, in 2010 and 2011 with 41 active fishermen and elders. Salmon catches were perceived to be increasing; however, perceptions about changing salmon abundance were mixed. While pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) and chum salmon (O. keta) have been observed in subsistence fisheries in the central North Slope region for over 50 years, only within the last 10 to 20 years has local use of these resources begun to increase. In this region, salmon are less important as a subsistence resource compared to whitefish species (Coregonus spp.). However, many fishermen participating in the Elson Lagoon gill net fishery near Barrow have begun to target salmon. Harvest estimates for this fishery in 2011 indicated that chum salmon and pink salmon catches comprise the majority of all fish caught (42% and 23%, respectively). Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) have been increasingly targeted, but catches are generally low. While sockeye salmon (O. nerka) numbers were perceived to have increased on the North Slope, catches of this species are rare. Only a few stray coho salmon (O. kisutch) have been captured in this region. Informants identified new stream systems where salmon are present and spawning, suggesting possible distribution shifts. Fishermen in both communities reported developing knowledge of salmon and are increasing their use of salmon as a subsistence resource.
    • A total environment of change: exploring social-ecological shifts in subsistence fisheries in Noatak and Selawik, Alaska

      Moerlein, Katie J. (2012-05)
      Arctic ecosystems are undergoing rapid changes as a result of global climate change, with significant implications for the livelihoods of arctic peoples. In this thesis, I use ethnographic research methods to detail prominent environmental changes observed and experienced over the past few decades and to document the impact of these changes on subsistence fishing practices in the Inupiaq communities of Noatak and Selawik in northwestern Alaska. Using in-depth key informant interviews, participant observation, and cultural consensus analysis, I explore local knowledge and perceptions of climate change and other pronounced changes facing the communities of Noatak and Selawik. I find consistent agreement about a range of perceived environmental changes affecting subsistence fisheries in this region, including lower river water levels, decreasing abundances of particular fish species, increasingly unpredictable weather conditions, and increasing presence of beaver, which affect local waterways and fisheries. These observations of environmental changes are not perceived as isolated phenomena, but are experienced in the context of accompanying social changes that are continually reshaping rural Alaska communities and subsistence economies. Consequently, in order to properly assess and understand the impacts of climate change on the subsistence practices in arctic communities, we must also consider the total environment of change that is dramatically shaping the relationship between people, communities, and their surrounding environments.