Pacific Salmon: Ecology and Management of Western Alaska’s Populations

Human Dimensions of Arctic Yukon Kuskokwim Salmon: Introduction

Joseph J. Spaeder


Since the inception of the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Sustainable Salmon Initiative (AYK SSI), the program has maintained an interdisciplinary focus by explicitly addressing human dimensions, as well as the biological dimensions, of salmon populations across their full life cycle. The AYK SSI Research and Restoration Plan (2006) includes a research framework entitled: Human Systems and Sustainable Salmon: Social, Economic, and Political Linkages. This framework prioritized studies to contribute to our understanding of how various human activities, institutions, and management structures may affect salmon populations and habitats. A number of research projects have been funded by the AYK SSI over the past seven years to address aspects of these social, cultural, economic, and institutional linkages. Consistent with the research and restoration plan, the 2007 AYK SSI Symposium included a session devoted to the “Human Dimensions of Salmon” which featured presentations addressing human-salmon issues in Alaska, Canada, and the Pacific Northwest.

The five human dimension papers addressing AYK salmon presented in this section, as well as a number of papers in other sections in this volume, attest to this research program’s strong interdisciplinary emphasis. In the lead chapter, Wolfe and Spaeder (2009, this volume) present an overview of the patterns and trends in subsistence salmon harvests across the AYK, coupled with a review of social organization and demographic trends which influence the dynamics of subsistence harvests. They include a review of case studies documenting the contributions of traditional ecological knowledge to fishery research and offer reflections on how social and cultural systems might adapt to changing salmon populations. Drawing on a set of Alaska case studies, Brelsford (2009, this volume) provides an overview of the contribution of local and traditional/indigenous ecological knowledge to our shared scientific understanding of salmon. The paper concludes with a discussion of how the lessons learned from these local and traditional/indigenous ecological knowledge studies might benefit the on-going research agenda of the AYK SSI program.