From Susan Chambers, 31, 2022

Combine salmon, a changing ocean and concern from researchers around the North Pacific and what do you get? The International Year of the Salmon’s 2022 research collaboration and high seas expedition.

The International Year of the Salmon and the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission are excited to announce the launch of the 2022 IYS Pan-Pacific Winter High Seas Expedition supported by NPAFC member countries — Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the U.S. — and partners. Four research vessels and more than 60 scientists and crew will depart their respective ports between late January and mid-February 2022 to conduct the largest ever pan-Pacific research expedition to study salmon and their ecosystems in the North Pacific Ocean.

“Changes in the North Pacific Ocean over the last decade have had unprecedented effects on our fisheries, communities and cultures that depend on it., NOAA Chief Science Advisor and Director of Scientific Programs, Dr. Cisco Werner, said in the release “This international survey seeks to provide new insight into ecosystem shifts that have resulted in changes in salmon returns to rivers from Alaska to California. The better we understand what is behind these shifts, the better we all can anticipate and prepare for future changes.”

The 2022 Expedition is a major international effort engaging governments, academia, NGOs, and industry to begin a new collaborative approach to filling the gaps in the understanding of what is happening to salmon in a rapidly changing North Pacific Ocean., according to a press release. Four research vessels will be deployed between January and April 2022 to cover four zones spanning the North Pacific. The fleet for the 2022 Expedition will include one research vessel from Canada, the CCGS Sir John Franklin; one from the U.S., the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada; one from Russia, the R/V TINRO; and a commercial fishing vessel from Canada, the F/V Raw Spirit.

While the vessels are at sea those interested in the research can follow the expedition’s progress on the IYS Website and on all IYS online media platforms (Twitter, @yearofthesalmon; Instagram, @internationalyearofthesalmon; Facebook, International Year of the Salmon – North Pacific). A series of activities will also take place for the launch and return of individual vessels.

Building off successful international expeditions into the Gulf of Alaska in 2019 and 2020, and the 2021 Western Pacific Winter Expedition, the major objective of the 2022 Expedition is to better understand how increasingly extreme climate variability in the North Pacific Ocean and the associated changes in the physical environment influence the abundance, distribution, migration and growth of Pacific salmon. To document salmon ecology, vessels will systematically deploy oceanographic gears and trawl nets at stations approximately 60 nautical miles apart across the North Pacific Ocean, sampling environment and ecosystem from microscopic plankton to large predators such as salmon sharks, with an emphasis on catching salmon and associated species. The Canadian commercial vessel will simultaneously deploy gillnets to assess the effectiveness of trawl nets to sample the community of fishes and composition of salmon, including steelhead, in these surface waters. All of the data collected will be made publicly accessible.

Novel technologies such as genomics, environmental DNA (eDNA), and ocean gliders will be utilized to test their potential to enhance the monitoring of salmon and the ecosystem. Recent advancements in DNA analyses allow researchers to determine the river of origin for salmon caught during the expedition, which enables them to understand for the first time how different stocks of salmon are distributed across the North Pacific. Environmental DNA analyses will allow researchers to assess the full range of the biodiversity, especially for species not captured in traditional sampling gears, the expedition leaders said in the statement.

The 2022 Pan-Pacific Winter High Seas Expedition is made possible by in-kind ship time contributions from Canada and the United States, and additional financial and technical contributions from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Province of British Columbia), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the North Pacific Research Board, the Great Pacific Foundation, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, the Russian Federal Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography, Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency, the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, the North Pacific Fisheries Commission, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Tula Foundation, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of British Columbia, Oregon State University, and the University of Washington.