Image credit:  NASA Earth Observatory

Credit:  Jay Barrett/KBBI in Homer

The NOAA study is ongoing, clink on a link if you’d like to participate.

Fishermen in Homer and elsewhere in the Gulf of Alaska have already seen previews of global climate change, and it’s not pretty. The “Blob” was a hotspot that developed in the central gulf that persisted for several years, affecting everything from fish to sea birds to marine mammals.

With a warming ocean comes measurable impacts on fishermen and the communities that depend on them. Marysia Szymkowiak is a social scientist with NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Juneau, who spoke to KBBI’s Jay Barrett about the survey she’s involved in.

“Yeah, so my work is part of a broader interdisciplinary effort at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center to understand how climate scenarios are going to impact Gulf of Alaska Fisheries. We’ve had a similar effort going on in the Bering sea for a number of years. Now, we’ve undertaken this effort in the gulf and my work focuses on trying to understand how fishermen sort of see climate change in their fishery systems, how they are responding to those changes and what they’re sort of thinking about in terms of long-term adaptation and resilience for their Fisheries,” Szymkowiak said.

“Did you make a lot of in-person interviews, or did Covid put a clamp on that?” Barrett asked.

“This whole project has really been virtual and I’ve been doing interviews with folks and have done three sort of larger group meetings all virtual, and obviously that has a cost in terms of not, you know, being able to have that in person interaction. But it’s also really sort of expanded who I can talk to because, I don’t, we don’t have an endless travel budget to be able to go to across Gulf of Alaska communities that I’ve been able to reach people, and maybe I haven’t otherwise been able. Fishermen are informing the way in which I asked these questions around how climate is framing their livelihoods and well-being and have sort of conceptualized climate change into their future and their ability to participate in fisheries,” Szymkowiak said.

“What are they telling you that they’re seeing out there as far as, you know, what they’re experiencing, is the ecological changes?” Barrett asked.

“I Say the number one sort of universal change is a decrease in the size of fish every time we’ve seen it, you know, this is largely expressed in terms of salmon. But sort of folks speak to it for Sablefish as well, you know, in terms of just the size of fish that you’re getting has really decreased over time across the board for Gulf of Alaska fishermen, and then a lot of the other, you know, changes are around. Just these really acute events of, you know, algal blooms or just jellyfish showing up, you know, where they normally wouldn’t and quantity either clogging that and there’s a lot of you know, talk about large sort of unprecedented precipitation events and concerns about those coming and the seasons when Salmon are spawning, and the impact of that on Salmon fry. And storm events and their implications for people to be able to go out, you know, and fish and how they sort of have changed their, where they go to stay out of you know, these big storm events. And I mean, I think, you know, the general theme of all those changes is how it’s just getting harder to Fish make a living and stay safe in these conditions,” Szymkowiak said.

“What kind of adaptations are they, have you found fishermen are, are trying?” Barrett asked.

“Fishermen, you know, are sort of in a different paradigm of constantly responding, but I think it’s, you know, just like the rest of us, in terms of how we sort of work right? We’re not always having to adapt how we’re doing things. And so it’s sort of that their baseline is different in terms of what they think is adapting, versus what is just the normal way in which they do things,” Szymkowiak said.

That was NOAA social scientist Marysia Szymkowiak talking with KBBI’s Jay Barrett. If you would like to participate in Szymkowiak’s study, follow this link to her email.