Alaska Sea Grant's Strategic Plan, 2004–2010

Please note: This is an organic, working document; changes and additions are expected. Document revision date: 8/2006.

PDF version of this document (revised 8/2006; 8.5 MB)

If you would like a printed copy of our strategic plan, our implementation plan, or our project directory, please contact us at seagrant.bookstore@alaska.edu.

Message from the Director

As Alaska's population increases, so do the pressures to use and develop Alaska's natural resources. Growth of the tourism industry, continued exploration for oil, gas, and minerals that is resulting in development, and the need and desire of Alaskans to harvest fish and wildlife all place increasing demands on natural resources. The Alaska Sea Grant College Program is charged with promoting a strong education base, responsive research and training activities, and dissemination of knowledge and techniques to assist in the development and conservation of ocean and coastal resources. The challenge for Alaska Sea Grant is to provide these services in the huge geographic area that is Alaska, with a budget not commensurate with Alaska's size or wealth of marine and coastal resources. To help us meet the challenge, we have developed this strategic plan to guide our efforts and help us focus on achieving the most important goals.

The Alaska Sea Grant strategic planning effort for 2004–2010 began with a meeting of our 28-member statewide Sea Grant Advisory Committee in November 2003. We were fortunate to have Dr. George Geistauts, director of the MBA graduate program at the University of Alaska Anchorage, to guide us through the first steps. Dr. Geistauts helped us to think strategically and to realize that a strategic plan is a dynamic and living entity, and not just a document. After the initial effort, which established a framework for planning, we held several meetings to explore coastal community needs, and we received additional public input through a survey sent to 1,000 Alaska residents. We then worked with the Advisory Committee to further refine the strategic plan. In order to put some finishing touches on the plan, we engaged the help and expertise of Margo Matthews, who recently retired from a successful career with national stature as a wildlife planner with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks. I want to thank all of the many people who worked with us in developing this strategic plan.

Our strategic plan is certainly not static, but is an evolving process of achieving our goals, one of which is to continually improve the evaluation of our work products. We already have plans to improve the metrics (performance indicators) of our objectives, strategies, and actions. In May 2006, the Sea Grant communicators from around the nation, chaired by our Education Services manager, Kurt Byers, held a workshop conducted by Oregon Sea Grant's expert on outreach accountability and assessment, Dr. Shawn Rowe. We will apply this knowledge to establish more detailed and specific indicators for the Education Services strategic planning process.

In late 2006, we will again tap the expertise of Dr. Rowe to give a workshop on outreach planning and evaluation at the annual retreat of our Marine Advisory Program. As with Education Services programming, concepts conveyed by Dr. Rowe will be reflected in Marine Advisory Program strategies and measures of success in subsequent iterations of our strategic and implementation plans.

These workshops will help us strengthen the performance indicators across all of Alaska Sea Grant. In essence, Alaska Sea Grant will continue to improve our strategic plan through adaptive management.

We invite you to share your thoughts about this plan with us. We welcome your comments at any time, and will actively seek public input before the next revision of the plan.

Sea Grant in Alaska

Alaska's Interests Are the Nation's Interests

Even though Alaska often is depicted on maps as a small state or island somewhere south of California—or sometimes not even shown on U.S. maps—Alaska's awesome landscape in fact accounts for nearly one-fifth the area of the United States.

Alaska's prominence among states goes far beyond its raw acreage. Alaska's natural resources help fuel the national economy, as well as the country's imagination as one of the last great symbols of a proud, can-do frontier nation.

Central to Alaska's importance to the nation and the world are its marine resources, which are without rival in the United States. At some 36,000 miles, Alaska has more coastline than the rest of the states combined. Alaska seas cover about 75 percent of the U.S. continental shelf. Those waters host some of the world's most abundant populations of marine life and influence the entire Pacific Ocean food web.

Alaska's waters annually yield more commercial fisheries harvest than the total for the rest of the United States—at a time when U.S. seafood consumption is at an all-time high. According to NOAA Fisheries, through 2004, for 16 consecutive years Alaska's Dutch Harbor–Unalaska has been the nation's number one seaport in volume for commercial fisheries landings. In 2004, Dutch Harbor–Unalaska ranked number two in value landed and Kodiak ranked number four in value and volume landed. Seward and Sitka were ranked seventh and ninth, respectively. In addition to supplying domestic demand, this ocean bounty helps maintain Alaska's national importance as a valuable source of U.S. natural resource exports.

Fourteen percent of U.S. crude oil production comes from Alaska, most of it extracted from wells along the coast and offshore. All of the oil is transported via ship through the state's pristine waters. The oil industry easily ranks as the state's most valuable source of income.

About 75 percent of Alaska's land and many of its marine mammal and fishery resources are managed by the federal government, owned by the public. Non-Alaskans place a high value on the vast undeveloped expanses in the state. And the appeal of Alaska each year draws many thousands of visitors from around the United States and the world, many of whom vacation in Alaska's marine and coastal areas.

Marine Resources Underpin Alaska Society

While Alaska's coastal and marine resources are a key part of the U.S. economic foundation, the same resources are the lifeblood of Alaska's society. Nearly everyone in Alaska lives along the ocean coast or major rivers that flow into the ocean. Perhaps more than any other state, livelihoods of a large portion of Alaska's population in some way center on or are affected by marine resources. Alaska's Native people and other rural residents incorporate subsistence harvest of fish, shellfish, and marine plants into their diets at levels up to 600 pounds per person per year. Subsistence in Alaska is a cultural tradition dating back thousands of years, and is a critical part of the wellbeing of rural communities.

Coastal tourism accounts for much of the state's visitor industry, a burgeoning enterprise that rivals the seafood industry in both dollar value and number of people employed. In 2005, 1.55 million people visited Alaska, injecting an estimated $1.5 billion into Alaska's economy and directly creating 27,000 jobs. Alaska is one of only a few U.S. states that is a destination point for the international cruise ship industry. Each year the number of people who visit Alaska on cruise ships alone far exceeds the population of the state.

The American Sportfishing Association estimated that expenditures on sport fishing in Alaska totaled $640 million in 2003, which generated 12,065 jobs and $259 million in wages and salaries, for an estimated $1.04 billion in total sportfishing-related spending in Alaska.

And beyond direct economic yield, Alaska's seas and coasts in their unused state represent enormous economic assets. The natural resources provide so-called "ecosystem services" that benefit people, including ecological processes, watershed benefits, habitat for animals and people, biodiversity, and other current and future consumptive and nonconsumptive uses. Nonconsumptive uses include such marine-related activities as kayaking, marine wildlife viewing, and recreational boating, which form an important part of the outdoor recreation industry. In addition, economic studies show that people outside of Alaska place a high monetary value on the continued existence of healthy ecosystems in Alaska.

As the United States and the world look increasingly to Alaska for extractive and aesthetic resources, the state must find ways to serve those needs while not depleting or destroying the assets. While most coastal and Great Lakes states grapple with how to fix problems that stemmed from misuse of natural resources, we still have time in Alaska to prevent problems. As part of a national network of Sea Grant programs and a key asset of the University of Alaska Fairbanks—the nation's premier arctic university and Alaska's research university—Alaska Sea Grant is ideally situated to apply lessons learned in other states in an effort to not only fix, but also prevent marine-related problems.

The Challenges of Space and Society

Alaska features unique resources and faces unique challenges in tapping and managing those resources. Within Alaska, travel is not trivial. The vast, rugged, and often difficult-to-access territory stretches human and monetary resources. These geographic conditions present logistical hurdles for people trying to conduct management, scientific, educational, or commercial activities in Alaska.

For example, approximately 800 miles and a $600 round-trip airfare separates Fairbanks in Alaska's Interior from Juneau, the capital city in Southeast Alaska. That's an often-necessary jaunt, which is almost as costly as traveling from Fairbanks to the U.S. East Coast. A trip from Alaska Sea Grant headquarters in Fairbanks to our Marine Advisory outpost 1,200 miles away in Unalaska in the Aleutian Island archipelago costs about $1,200 and takes about seven hours, depending on flight connections. Along the entire Alaska coast, bad weather often prevents scheduled air departures and arrivals by days, not just hours, which increases costs of potential projects, lodging, and other items.

Alaska's highway system is limited. Several communities, including Juneau, Cordova, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Bethel, Dillingham, Sitka, Unalaska, and Kodiak, are accessible only by air or water. Many other communities are accessible only by air.

Social issues demand careful and innovative approaches to resource use and management. Management of Alaska's commercial, subsistence, and sport fisheries are divided among often-overlapping state, federal, and Alaska Native jurisdictions; and international rules sometimes apply. State resource management laws that are dictated by the Alaska Constitution sometimes conflict with federal laws. Alaska Natives representing five distinct groups in the state make up 17 percent of the population and add a multicultural dimension to every decision debated. Solicitation and use of Alaska Natives' traditional knowledge poses special challenges. It also presents great opportunities to develop holistic approaches to understanding ecosystem dynamics and crafting approaches to resource management that will resonate well across cultures.

Interest groups within Alaska vie for what they believe is their fair share of the state's natural resources or for complete preservation of resources. These often-contentious conditions present a ripe environment for the Alaska Sea Grant College Program to exercise its strength as a respected and trusted entity that can bring together diverse interests to discuss and resolve issues with the aid of science-based information.

Service to the State

For more than three decades, Alaska Sea Grant and its extension arm, the Marine Advisory Program, have helped people understand, conserve, and wisely use Alaska's bountiful coastal and marine resources. We've done this through a program of research, education, and extension activities to people across the state.

Our program has grown to include advisory and administrative offices in communities that provide strategic coverage of the Alaska coast.

Alaska Sea Grant's efforts have yielded tangible results. For example, seafood specialists at the Marine Advisory Program help the state's seafood industry develop better ways to handle and preserve fish aboard fishing vessels and package seafood for shipment. We continue to provide training, consultation services, and information materials to processing plant workers and entrepreneurs, which increases the quality and value of our fish and shellfish. Our Marine Advisory Program helped plan and build the state's first and only shellfish hatchery, upon which Alaska's shellfish farming industry depends. The Marine Advisory Program also helped communities identify suitable shellfish farm sites and led the effort to streamline the state tidelands leasing process for shellfish farms.

Our research and outreach has helped coastal communities prepare for tsunamis, and information and training provided by the Marine Advisory Program have contributed to fewer fishing-related deaths.

Innovative research on salmon, funded by Alaska Sea Grant, has helped fisheries managers better understand long-term fluctuations in salmon populations and how interbreeding can affect salmon. Information shared by scientists and resource managers during our international scientific symposia has improved fishery management and led to greater understanding of high latitude marine ecosystems.

Alaska Sea Grant has contributed to a highly trained workforce through support of dozens of graduate students. A high proportion of students have gone on to work for resource management agencies, marine industries, conservation groups, and academic institutions in Alaska.

We've also improved public awareness and understanding of our seas and coasts and the complex issues around them. Alaska Sea Grant Education Services and our Marine Advisory Program collaborate to produce and distribute thousands of books, pamphlets, posters, and videos.

We are one of the state's best sources of teaching tools on Alaska's marine resources for homeschoolers, and the public and private K–12 system. Our educational materials also target "free-choice learners," people who on their own initiative seek out educational opportunities in places such as interpretive centers, museums, and aquariums.

Television programs produced by the Marine Advisory Program and a radio news service, and magazine and newspaper articles produced by Alaska Sea Grant Education Services tap the news and marine industry trade media to educate Alaskans about the coastal and marine environments they depend upon. Low-cost classroom materials published by Alaska Sea Grant on outdoor safety and marine ecology provide parents and teachers with tools to help Alaska's youth gain valuable and potentially life-saving knowledge about our coastal and marine environment.

North to the Future

This publication outlines a broad strategy compiled in partnership with fellow Alaskans who share a keen interest in the perpetual vitality of our coastal and ocean resources. Because of limited resources, not all of the objectives and strategies will be doable. But together they present a comprehensive road map, with many routes available, to reach Alaska Sea Grant's thematic goals and help fulfill the Alaska state motto, "North to the Future."

As we implement this plan, we expect new discoveries and collaborations that will help ensure the long-term sustainability of our coastal and marine resources. To those ends, our Advisory Committee has helped us create an overall vision for the program and a description of the mission we will undertake to pursue our program's vision.

Vision

Alaska will have the nation's most vibrant and productive marine, estuarine, and coastal watershed environments, maintained through ecosystem approaches to management balancing wise use and conservation. Alaskan people and communities will reconcile different values about resource use and conservation by blending and applying objective, science-based, and traditional knowledge for the social and economic benefit of all Alaskans.

Mission

Alaska Sea Grant develops and supports research, education, and extension programs and partnerships to help sustain economic development, traditional cultural uses, and conservation of Alaska's marine, estuarine, and coastal watershed resources.

Defining Our Role

Alaska Sea Grant's role is to focus on important needs relevant to our mission and not already effectively addressed by others. To pinpoint those needs, the Alaska Sea Grant Advisory Committee, internal and external stakeholders, and Alaska Sea Grant Management Team collaborated in a two-year planning process (Appendix I) that began in 2003 to analyze Alaska Sea Grant's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and identify and assess marine-related issues that are important to Alaskans and need the kind of attention Alaska Sea Grant can provide. Advice from Advisory Committee meetings, constituent surveys, and one-on-one interviews suggested many needs relevant to Alaska Sea Grant. As we embark on this long-term strategy, we exploit our existing strengths while simultaneously building new capacity.

Needs and Vision Extend beyond Resources

The needs of the people of Alaska and Alaska Sea Grant's vision and desire to address those needs on behalf of the state and nation far exceed our capacity. Given the enormity of Alaska's marine resources and their importance to Alaska, the nation, and the world, federal funding directed to Alaska Sea Grant is disproportionately small when measured against the aesthetic and economic value of Alaska's marine resources. This fact underscores our determination to focus on the essential.

Alaska Sea Grant Themes

The 30 state and territorial Sea Grant programs work cooperatively with the National Sea Grant College Program to establish broad themes for Sea Grant's research, education, and extension. This national network collaboration via "theme teams" ensures that the National Sea Grant agenda is relevant to state and regional issues, and that state and regional efforts serve the interests of the nation.

The national Sea Grant agenda is organized into eleven themes and three national priority areas. Each Sea Grant program crafts its program based on the national themes and priorities, adopting and adapting them to suit state and regional situations. The national themes are:

Selection of Alaska Sea Grant Themes

All of the national themes apply to Alaska—some more than others. The Alaska Sea Grant Advisory Committee reviewed the national themes and recommended that Alaska Sea Grant focus on five primary ones. In alphabetical order, they are:

Thematic Issues

When the Advisory Committee selected our five primary themes, they discussed key environmental, management, sociocultural, and economic issues related to each theme. The Alaska Sea Grant Management Team, working with a strategic planning consultant, reviewed the Advisory Committee's thoughts and input gleaned from our meetings with and surveys of stakeholders. Through that review, the Management Team articulated key marine, estuarine, and coastal watershed issues germane to each theme—our thematic issues.

To address the challenges and opportunities described in each thematic issue, the Management Team established a corresponding set of objectives, strategies to pursue the objectives, desired outcomes, and indicators of success.

With additional guidance from our strategic planning consultant, the Management Team went on to develop a scheme to implement our strategic plan. The resulting implementation plan takes this strategic plan a step further, to include measurable outcomes that we expect our strategies will yield.

This companion implementation plan is available on the Alaska Sea Grant web site. An overview of our planning process is in the Planning Process section of this document.

Our strategic plan is a living document. As conditions change in Alaska—and they will—we will reassess and reprioritize our themes and goals, and adjust our research, education, and extension efforts accordingly.

National Priority Areas

The National Sea Grant College Program has identified three National Priority Areas, all of which apply to Alaska:

In 2004, Alaska Sea Grant successfully competed for supplemental National Sea Grant funding in Enhanced Fisheries Extension. This National Priority Area fits well into our Fisheries theme and our Coastal Communities and Economies theme. The funding allowed us to hire two Marine Advisory Program agents, located in Cordova and Petersburg. Both communities are in regions severely affected by a downturn in international markets for wild salmon.

The Fisheries Extension Enhancement initiative in Alaska involves six Marine Advisory Program agents and specialists in two statewide efforts. The Fisheries in Transition project works with commercial fishermen in coastal communities across the state, helping them to increase value from their catch through efficiencies and better business practices, as well as increasing their participation in changes to management structures. The Capacity Building of Local Residents Involved in Environmental Monitoring effort is designed to increase the number of local residents working in the natural resources field with researchers and managers.

Alaska Sea Grant has long been involved with the issue of harmful algal blooms (HABs). In Alaska, HABs are the source of deadly paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), which has sickened and killed Alaskans and visitors. The cumbersome process of testing for PSP has hindered the growth of high-value niche fisheries for geoducks and sea cucumbers, and has inhibited the growth of Alaska's shellfish farming industry. We have funded research and extension aimed at mitigating the threat of PSP and developing faster, reliable methods for testing shellfish for the deadly toxin. Alaska Sea Grant will pursue involvement and funding through the National HAB initiative.

The National Priority Area in oyster research and restoration likewise could help Alaska Sea Grant assist the state's fledgling oyster farming industry. In 2004, an outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a bacterium in the same family as those that cause cholera, cropped up in farmed oysters in Prince William Sound. The outbreak, due to unusually warm water temperatures, temporarily shut down the region's oyster harvest. Assistance from the Marine Advisory Program was key to solving the problem and reopening the farms. Alaska Sea Grant will encourage the funding of work in this area through the National Sea Grant priority in oyster research and restoration.

Alaska Sea Grant, NOAA, and the University of Alaska

The National Sea Grant College Program is housed in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The National Sea Grant College Program strategic plan addresses National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration priorities. Our strategic plan addresses National Sea Grant priorities.

Alaska Sea Grant is housed in the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (SFOS) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). UAF is part of the University of Alaska System, which is composed of a statewide network of three major campuses (Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Juneau) and rural community campuses. School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences Dean Denis Wiesenburg serves as statewide coordinator for all marine research and development for the University of Alaska System.

UAF has designated fisheries and ocean sciences as one of its "Programs of Distinction." The university also will take on a major role in the International Polar Year. Both of these facts play directly into Alaska Sea Grant's strengths.

Alaska Sea Grant solicits and welcomes research proposals from, and outreach partnerships with, all University of Alaska campuses, as well as the state's two other independent postsecondary academic units, Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka and Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage. Proposals also are accepted from private industry, government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations.

As a key member of the University of Alaska community, we produce useful products and measurable results in the context of the University of Alaska's tripartite mission of research, teaching, and extension—which mirrors the National Sea Grant approach. Following are our five primary themes and associated goals, with a summary of the efforts we envision to pursue them.

The Five Themes of Alaska Sea Grant

Theme One: Coastal Communities and Economies

Thematic Issues

Alaska's coastal towns and villages can be characterized as vibrant and culturally unique, yet intensely caring and community-oriented. There are over 80 communities dotting Alaska's coastline and less than 10 percent are connected by road to any other community.

Boom and bust swings in the fortunes of the commercial fishing industry have a ripple effect across hundreds of Alaska communities. Negative effects can include loss of jobs, business closings, domestic stress, lower real estate values, and bankruptcies.

Disturbances such as beach and riverbank erosion, earthquakes, climate warming, and tsunamis can adversely affect coastal and river communities. In extreme cases, entire communities must be relocated due to bank erosion. In 1964, tsunamis destroyed villages and towns and killed 106 Alaskans. In 2004, a coastal storm in Nome eroded the riverbanks, causing flooding and damage to businesses downtown. More recently, high waves brought about by a reduced ice edge resulted in drowning deaths of subsistence whalers in a community along northern coastal Alaska. In 2006, huge masses of sea ice plowed ashore in Barrow, threatening city infrastructure and personal property, and the volcanic eruption of Mt. St. Augustine near Anchorage caused airline flight cancellations due to airborne ash.

The "lack of connection" is one of the most defining aspects of Alaska's coastal communities and often is relished by its residents. However, this lack of connectivity creates economic and educational challenges. Cost of power in small Alaska communities often defines the economic feasibility of small businesses. In Bethel, for example, the average price of electricity (primarily generated by diesel generators) is $0.28 per kWh, well above the U.S. average of $0.06 per kWh, or even Anchorage's level of $0.15 per kWh.

Recently, low fish prices have been the motivator for coastal Alaska communities to search for economic diversity. In Southeast Alaska, the cruise ship industry has provided a major infusion of private dollars. Ketchikan, for example, is recovering from a decline in timber harvest in the Tongass National Forest and low prices for pink salmon. In 2005, over 900,000 cruise ship visitors stopped in Ketchikan (population 18,000), up from 250,000 in 2000, generating significant economic impact.

Increasing resident and visitor populations stress local infrastructure and the coastal environment, while changing the economic dynamics in communities. On cruise ships alone, more people visit Alaska each year than live in the state. Vigilance of and cooperation with the cruise ship industry must be maintained to prevent air and water pollution while continuing to support an operational presence that generates income and jobs for Alaskans.

In the Bristol Bay region and other areas of the state, interest is growing in upland copper and gold mining, and onshore and possibly offshore oil drilling. These regions have traditionally relied on renewable resources, especially the annual sockeye salmon fishery, for economic well-being. Extractive resource development needs to be designed and managed to ensure it does not cause negative effects on the viability of renewable resources.

Shellfish aquaculture also is a growing industry, further diversifying coastal economies. Rapid development in Southeast Alaska, Prince William Sound, and Kachemak Bay is adding jobs and stability.

Despite struggling with economic uncertainty, rural and coastal Alaskans share a strong interest in maintaining the health of their natural resources, their ability to interact with their environment through the subsistence culture, and the continued viability of their unique community character.

Goal

Increase the ability of residents of coastal communities to understand and adjust to short- and long-term changes in marine, estuarine, and coastal watershed resource use and availability, as well as the environmental conditions that can affect the well-being of Alaskans. Foster environmentally sensitive development of industries that rely on Alaska's marine, estuarine, and coastal watershed resources.

Objective 1

Support economic diversity and self-sufficiency in Alaska's coastal communities by providing education and training that helps local residents develop coastal enterprises, such as shellfish aquaculture, seafood processing, tourism, and other industries, and gain employment at local resource management agencies.

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Objective 2

Provide information and assistance to coastal communities to enable effective responses to coastal hazards and to help communities plan and design infrastructure for development of industries utilizing marine, estuarine, and coastal watershed resources in environmentally sensitive and culturally appropriate ways.

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Objective 3

Build capacity in Alaska's coastal communities by improving professional and vocational training opportunities, particularly with Alaska Natives and other rural Alaskans, in the seafood, tourism, shellfish aquaculture, and other industries.

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Theme Two: Ecosystems and Habitats

Thematic Issues

The remote location of the Arctic Ocean, Chukchi Sea, Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, and Southeast Alaska have left these waters relatively unexplored and not well-understood compared to other U.S. marine and coastal waters. There is a lack of understanding of marine ecosystems and habitats and how they may be affected by human activities, as dramatically demonstrated by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Commercial and recreational activities can disrupt marine, estuarine, and coastal watershed ecosystems. The disruptions can adversely affect people who rely on healthy ecosystems.

Human-generated debris exists in Alaska's oceans and rivers. It can injure or kill animals and can adversely affect ecosystem function. Marine debris can damage marine vessels.

Operation of boats, marine debris, oil spills, fishing gear entanglements, and military testing close to marine mammals and birds can adversely affect the animals' migration, breeding, and feeding behaviors, and ultimately their survival.

Nonindigenous marine organisms can disrupt and displace desirable native species, causing ecological and economic harm. Nonindigenous marine species have colonized Alaska waters, but little is known about their current and potential negative impacts. Inadequate controls are in place to prevent continued introduction of more nonindigenous species.

Goal

Maintain the ecosystem function of Alaska's important marine, estuarine, and coastal watershed habitats with a minimum of human-caused disruptions or negative impacts.

Objective 1

Conduct research, education, and extension to provide greater understanding among Alaskans and those making policy decisions regarding the role and function of habitat in the marine, estuarine, and coastal watershed ecosystems.

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Objective 2

Conduct outreach activities with coastal community members, tourists, recreational users, industry, and others to enhance the understanding of the value of healthy ecosystem function, negative human impacts on ecosystem function, and environmental emergencies.

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Theme Three: Fisheries

Thematic Issues

Management and allocation decisions based on inaccurate forecasts of salmon escapement can adversely affect community economies, Alaska processing plants, and lifestyles of people who harvest salmon for commercial, recreational, and subsistence purposes. For example, commercial fishermen depend on preseason forecasts to budget their purchases for the coming season. Sportfishing river charter guides need to have a reasonable idea of how many fish will be available during their guiding season. And rural Alaskans whose food supply centers on salmon need a reasonably close idea of what they can expect for salmon returns as they plan their food supply for the winter.

Allocation of the fishery resource often causes conflict among user groups, and between harvesters and fishery managers who make allocation decisions. Sportfishing participants sometimes believe they should have a higher allocation at the expense of commercial fishermen, and vice versa. Subsistence users sometimes believe that too many fish are allocated to other users, at their expense. Users in all groups have been known to harshly criticize fishery managers when they believe that management decisions have been wrong.

Changes in fishery management schemes, such as implementation of individual fishery quotas (IFQs), can have profound positive and negative effects on the socioeconomic fabric of coastal communities. Management systems that eliminate the need for all fishermen to fish during short, intense openings, sometimes in dangerous weather, greatly enhance safety at sea. Allowing fishermen to catch their quota over a longer period of time enables processors to make fresh product available to consumers over a greater period of time. Alaska's fisheries resources have been a "common property resource," available for harvest by any citizen who can afford to enter the business. But based on criteria that limit access and/or assign harvest quotas to specific fishermen, some fishermen greatly benefit while others do not.

Lack of information about fish and shellfish life histories and population dynamics makes it difficult for fishery managers to make optimal decisions on how much fish and shellfish should be harvested to simultaneously sustain fishery populations as well as the commercial and subsistence economies that depend on fishery resources. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, NOAA Fisheries, and the University of Alaska are working diligently to incorporate a broader ecosystem approach to management in order to sustain Alaska's fisheries.

There is a low level of awareness about the total cultural, aesthetic, and economic value of marine fisheries and other coastal wildlife in Alaska. Thus their true value is not always factored into resource management decisions.

Changes in the natural environment and in fisheries management hurt the ability of many commercial fishermen to derive an adequate living from the fisheries. Sharply decreased prices for some fisheries products have put many fishermen into financial distress.

Resource management decisions profoundly affect rural residents and subsistence users. Often rural residents do not have the financial resources to travel to management meetings, resulting in little input into the decision-making process. This can lead to misunderstandings and mistrust by the people affected by the decisions, and to ill-advised management decisions that hurt the social and economic interests of the users.

Goal 1

Develop management strategies that incorporate ecosystem approaches to fishery harvest balanced with conservation of Alaska's living resources from marine, estuarine, and coastal watershed environments.

Objective 1

Fund socioeconomic and biological research on ecosystem approaches to fishery harvests that are sustainable and that minimize impacts on ecosystem functioning.

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Objective 2

Develop collaborative partnerships with NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Federal Subsistence Management Program, North Pacific Fishery Management Council, nongovernmental organizations, and industry to help fund research, education, and extension on ecosystem approaches to sustainable fishery harvests balanced with resource conservation.

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Objective 3

Build local capacity of rural residents to contribute to resource monitoring and data collection work.

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Objective 4

Increase the credibility of fisheries research among fishermen by facilitating the participation of individual fishermen or groups in research design and implementation related to their industry or resource base.

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Goal 2

Enhance and improve the profitability and viability of Alaska's commercial fishermen and fishing communities.

Objective 1

Increase business planning and management skills among commercial fishermen.

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Objective 2

Increase the capacity of coastal communities to support commercial fisheries, processors, and other related industries as a vital economic source in their community.

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Objective 3

Support innovation and entrepreneurship among fishermen seeking to improve their businesses through reducing operating costs or increasing the value of their catch.

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Objective 4

Enhance the ability of individual fishermen, communities, and local advisory groups to understand, participate in, and respond to changes in the management of their fisheries.

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Theme Four: Marine and Aquatic Science Literacy

Thematic Issues

Lack of awareness about Alaska's marine, estuarine, and coastal watersheds and how to wisely use and conserve these natural resources can lead to deterioration of the ecosystems. This in turn can adversely affect Alaska's social structure and economy and cause conflicts over resource use.

Some people are not aware that climate change may adversely affect marine and aquatic species in Alaska. Many others are concerned that the changes may affect Alaskans who rely on the plants and animals for commercial, recreational, and subsistence use. For example, the volume and behavior of arctic ice profoundly affect plankton production in the northern seas. A change in plankton blooms can cause major changes in all marine populations that directly or indirectly rely on plankton. Changes in ocean temperatures cause changes in marine populations. The changes may be favorable to some species and unfavorable to others.

There is a lack of a comprehensive K–12 plan that includes a formal component or requirement for marine and aquatic education. Alaska K–12 teachers have limited classroom resources and professional development opportunities focused on Alaska's marine resources and ecosystems. Students do not get the knowledge they need to carry with them into adulthood as they begin to form opinions and make decisions about how to best use Alaska's marine, estuarine, and coastal watershed resources.

Resource managers and practitioners of Western science do not adequately tap the storehouse of local and traditional knowledge possessed by Alaska Natives and other rural people. The cumulative knowledge of marine, estuarine, and coastal watershed ecosystems among Alaska Natives, acquired through decades of daily observation and reliance on natural resources, can help enlighten scientists and resource managers about long-term changes in ecosystems.

There is a lack of appreciation among Alaska residents on how different cultures view, value, and utilize marine, estuarine, and coastal watershed resources, which leads to resource use conflicts.

Goal

Improve the decision-making capacity of Alaskans through increased knowledge of Alaska's marine, estuarine, and coastal watershed resources and understanding of management, utilization, and conservation issues.

Objective

Conduct formal and nonformal educational activities to equip people with the knowledge required to make sound decisions in the management, use, and conservation of Alaska's marine and aquatic resources, leading to a sense of stewardship, and with the knowledge required to work in marine-related careers or vocations.

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Theme Five: Seafood Science and Technology

Thematic Issues

Alaska has an abundant and well-managed commercial fishery. But in recent years international markets for Alaska seafood have eroded, which has caused social and economic hardships in many coastal communities that have traditionally depended on commercial fishing and processing.

Great geographic distance separating the fishing grounds from seafood consumers pose extreme challenges for producing and delivering high-quality Alaska seafood to domestic and foreign markets.

Traditional seafood products from Alaska, such as canned pink salmon and headed/gutted fish, are increasingly difficult to sell in a world market that has growing access to a variety of new seafood products, including farmed fish and shellfish products.

Enhancement of seafood quality and value is hampered by the lack of access to technical knowledge and information. This is particularly severe in small rural communities throughout Alaska, and with new processors, cooperatives, and community groups trying to enter the industry.

While annual consumption of seafood in the United States reached an all-time high in 2003, more seafood was imported than ever before. Alaskans in the seafood industry must quickly adapt their industry to a global market.

Goal

Increase the economic value and enhance the reputation of Alaska's fisheries and seafood resources.

Objective 1

Improve the quality of seafood products.

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Objective 2

Increase the net value of fisheries resources by developing progressive and innovative processing methods to reduce production costs.

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Objective 3

Expand the variety of seafood products available to consumers and improve state, domestic, and international marketing.

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Objective 4

Provide information to commercial fishermen to increase the value of their catch by improving quality, direct-marketing their own catch, or value-added processing.

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Objective 5

Assist fishermen, new processors, and coastal communities to determine how to enter the seafood industry or to improve the efficiency of their operations.

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Objective 6

Enhance the food safety of seafood products and help the seafood industry maintain stringent food safety standards.

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Objective 7

Assist seafood processors and coastal communities in analyzing the options and potential for new technology, products, and efficiencies related to waste utilization management.

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Planning Process

In 2003 we recruited our first-ever statewide Alaska Sea Grant Advisory Committee to help us identify state priorities and focus our research, education, and extension into a subset of the National Sea Grant themes.

The 28 committee members include representatives from an array of constituent groups—K–12 education, marine conservation, ecotourism, petroleum extraction and mining, coastal engineering, cruise ship industry, commercial fishing, seafood processing, resource management, Alaska Native groups, and others. In its inaugural meeting, the committee identified Alaska Sea Grant's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and crafted draft vision and mission statements.

In early 2004 Alaska Sea Grant began work on a new strategic plan. We cast our net wide and deep, surveying constituents using print media, email, Internet, community meetings, and the telephone to gather advice from the consumers and potential consumers of our research, education, and outreach resources. The advice we received from constituents is the primary information we used to decide actions Alaska Sea Grant will undertake to serve constituent needs.

By fall 2004 we articulated Alaska Sea Grant's overall strategy, including our mission, major themes, goals, strategies to pursue the goals, and intended measurable benefits for Alaska. After much careful consideration, in March 2005 we finalized our vision.

This publication is the result of that process. But it represents a milestone, not a final destination. Alaska Sea Grant will fine-tune the process, continuously solicit and field ideas and suggestions from constituents, keep an eye out for new opportunities to serve Alaskans, and adjust our plan accordingly.

Conclusion

People in Alaska and around the globe have a vested interest in Alaska's natural resources. As the climate changes and human pressure increases on the state's resources, sustaining their long-term health will no doubt become more challenging.

With Alaska Sea Grant's committed and capable people and the program's nimble ability to quickly focus attention and energy on emerging issues, we are ideally suited to respond to inevitable social and environmental change.

This strategic plan focuses how we will direct our research, education, and extension to help Alaskans sustain their state's natural resources in the face of predictable and unpredictable challenges.

We appreciate the advice provided by the many Alaskans who responded to our request for guidance. We look forward to constant communication with our constituents as all of us tackle the challenge of sustaining and improving stewardship of Alaska's rivers, coasts, and seas.