Fish Radio
Climate change adaptation for AK fisheries is focus of seminar
November 11, 2016                              climate-change-science-v-politics-cartoon

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – How can Alaska’s fisheries adapt to climate change? Come brainstorm at Fish Expo. More after this –

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Changes are coming from a warming world and off kilter ocean chemistry. So what can the seafood industry do to adapt?

“We know things are changing in the ocean and so far they haven’t had really dramatic effects on Alaska fisheries, but we know there is a lot more to come. So my question to the industry is what are individuals going to do in order to preserve and maybe enhance their own profitability.”

Terry Johnson is a Fisheries Professor and Sea Grant Marine Advisor with in Anchorage. He’ll hold a session at Fish Expo to sum up the science to date. But a main focus is to hear ideas from  Alaska fishermen and community reps on how they plan to adapt to the inevitable.

“There’s some general thinking in the literature about adaptation which a lot has to do with flexibility and mobility in order to move around to react in the changes to distribution and changes in species mix, but I haven’t seen much evidence that it is actually in practice yet.”

There are many scientific reports and schools of thought but Johnson says nothing has come to the forefront yet in Alaska in terms of adaptability.

“We have seen a number of climate related changes but they are more results of temporary climate variations, such as El Niño’s and regime shifts on the order of a year or a decade or more. But the long term changes – I don’t think we have really been sufficiently dramatic so industry has had to make changes yet.”

Changes could include things like moving towards bigger, multi-fisheries vessels that allow for more flexibility, and changes in regulatory regimes that   lift some of the restrictions on moving from one area to another. Meanwhile, Johnson says he is concerned that a Trump administration will gut climate change science.

“It’s certainly true that the work federal scientists and others many of whom are working on federal funding are doing very important work that will eventually help inform us about how to adapt to these changes – and if that funding is cut off, we’re going to be working in the dark.”

But the industry always has adapted and   will develop its own strategies, no matter what.

“Change is constant in fisheries. And what distinguishes fishermen from other occupational groups is they are constantly adapting to change on a year by year and day by day basis. Rather than obsessing about the good and the bad the ocean is producing because of climate, the focal point should be what on each community or each individual can do”.  

There are a lot of creative people out there, Johnson says, and he is hopeful they will share their ideas on climate change and Alaska’s fisheries next Friday at 2pm.

See the full Expo line up for next week at – and find links at

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. ( In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.