Alaska Sea Grant to host international conference on climate change and fish

May 2, 2017

man on fishing boat with hundreds of fish Jordan Watson (UAF student and NOAA statistician) conducts research on vessel responses to environmental variability in the Bering Sea pollock fishery.

Fisheries experts from Alaska and around the globe will gather in Anchorage next week to share their research at the 31st Wakefield Fisheries Symposium.

The topic of this year’s symposium, to be held at the Hotel Captain Cook May 9–11, is “Impacts of a Changing Environment on the Dynamics of High-latitude Fish and Fisheries.”

The topic was chosen because of the importance of fisheries to the state and the nation. Fish populations and fisheries off Alaska go up and down because of fluctuations in the environment and are also changing along with the climate.

“Some fish are likely to be ‘winners’ (increase) in a warming climate, others are likely to be ‘losers.’ Some will redistribute to new areas,” said Franz Mueter, symposium co-chair and fisheries professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

To better understand changes in fish stocks, the organizing committee brought together experts on the effects of environmental change on fishes, along with modelers who can project how populations may change in the future.

These projections allow other scientists to devise more effective strategies to manage fish stocks, which will ensure they can be harvested sustainably into the future, even as their abundances and distributions change.

“What we learn at the meeting will provide strategic advice to managers about how to manage fish stocks in a changing environment,” said Mueter. “The invited speakers are experts in tackling problems that we need to solve to make better predictions and to better serve fishing communities.”

Hans-Otto Pörtner, of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, will give the keynote talk first thing on day 1. Over several years Pörtner led the ocean efforts for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which provides an internationally accepted authority on climate change.

Among other talks at the symposium:

For a full agenda see the Wakefield symposium website.

— By Sue Keller

Alaska Sea Grant is a statewide marine research, education, and outreach program, and is a partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program agents provide assistance that helps Alaskans wisely use, conserve, and enjoy marine and coastal resources.