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Scientists to Study Western Alaska Salmon Declines


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 5, 2010

Fairbanks, Alaska—Scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks will spend two years studying declines and variability in Western Alaska king salmon runs thanks to a grant from the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center.

The $435,000 project, led by professor Milo Adkison and assistant professor Larissa Dehn, includes a consortium of UAF fisheries faculty members from both Fairbanks and Juneau. Assistant professor Megan McPhee also received $180,000 in matching funds from the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund to augment the study.

The project contains multiple components, all focused on the health and ecology of freshwater king salmon runs and how these factors affect annual returns. One aspect will examine how king salmon grow during their freshwater phase and how growth affects survival to the age of reproduction. Another component will study how infection by a parasite called “Ichthyophonus” affects the health of freshwater-run king salmon. Although not harmful to humans, Ichthyophonus attacks the organs of the fish and causes reduced endurance and ability to spawn.

“The fishing industry is greatly concerned about recent declines in Western Alaska salmon abundance,” said Denis Wiesenburg, UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences dean and director of the research center. “As a result, the PCCRC decided to direct significant funding this year to meaningful, focused research into the causes of these declines.”

The Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center is part of the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and is funded by the Pollock Conservation Cooperative, a group of Bering Sea pollock catcher/processor companies. Each year, the center awards grants to University of Alaska faculty members and other scientists to study North Pacific marine and coastal ecosystems, fisheries and marine mammals. This year, the center requested that proposals address issues of salmon health, ecology and migration.

“Through this funding, the PCC hopes to contribute to a better understanding of the causes of king salmon problems in the Yukon and Kuskokwim River systems,” said Jan Jacobs of American Seafoods and co-chair of the PCCRC Advisory Board. “Salmon declines cause hardships to the people in the region, and all fishermen who depend on this resource.”

The PCC has donated more than $10 million to UAF over the last ten years. PCC companies include American Seafoods Company, Arctic Storm, Glacier Fish Company, Starbound and Trident Seafoods Corporation.

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