Portland, OR--State of the Salmon brought together 200 fishery resource managers, scientists, fishing industry representatives, community leaders and conservationists November 15-17 to explore issues and opportunities surrounding the theme -- Salmon in a Changing Climate. Participants traveled from as far away as China, Russia and the United Kingdom to discuss how emerging science about projected climate-induced changes in marine and freshwater ecosystems should inform salmon and steelhead conservation. The workshop focused on direct links between this emerging science and related salmon resource management needs and strategies.
The latest in a series of international meetings dedicated to the conservation of Pacific salmon throughout their native range, the workshop was more interactive than past gatherings. After setting the stage with emerging science about the social dynamics of supporting climate adaptation, freshwater ecosystem effects, ocean acidification, and portfolio management of ecological risks, the balance of discussions focused on case studies in three geographically diverse ecosystems.
The Tongass (SE Alaska) case study highlighted a large and relatively intact ecosystem, with large abundances of naturally self-sustaining pink salmon that generate high levels of commercial fishing opportunity. Panel discussions explored to what extent that current real time fishery management strategies might fare under circumstances where annual run sizes fluctuated much more widely and frequently. A Snohomish Basin (Puget Sound, Washington) case was chosen to typify a salmon ecosystem largely driven by Endangered Species Act listings and fairly sophisticated watershed based recovery planning processes involving multiple stakeholders. Finding incentives for land and water users to enact conservation strategies was a highlight of this session. Finally an Upper Columbia River Basin case study from the Okanagan River system in British Columbia profiled another scarce resource management issue - water - and discussed multi-stakeholder decision processes that have optimized benefits for salmon and other water uses such as irrigation.
This proved to be an excellent format for tackling the somewhat overwhelming challenges of climate change impacts on salmon. Climate change is happening. It will have effects on salmon and the human and ecological systems that depend on them. The stakes are high, but the right people were in the room to address the deceptively simple question, “What can we do about it?”