Climate change impacts on coastal ecosystems call for steps to protect these economically valuable coastlines for current and future fisheries, say the authors of the latest “SeaBank” report from the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust.
The physical and biological diversities of salmon-producing watersheds are globally unique, according to the report, which was released in early December by the nonprofit Sitka, Alaska-based trust. The report takes a multi-disciplinary approach to identifying and assessing the value of the Southeast Alaska ecosystem.
“The 2020 SeaBank report underscores that Southeast Alaska is one of the most productive ecosystems in the world,” said Linda Behnken, a veteran commercial longline harvester who’s a trust founder and executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.
“These coastal ecosystems are also incredibly vulnerable to a rapidly warming climate and industrial activities that diminish the productivity and overall value of southeast Alaska’s ecosystem,” she said.
Restoring the Roadless Rule protections to the Tongass National Forest will help protect the region’s fish and wildlife in this temperate rainforest, and sustain the region’s economic health and resilience, Behnken said.
The term “SeaBank” was coined by the fisheries trust to describe Southeast Alaska’s diverse coastline which stretches 500 miles from Metlakatla to Yakutat, with its interconnected network of land, water, vegetation, wildlife, resources, economies and culture. Commercial, as well as sport and subsistence fisheries, are critical to the region’s economy.
Southeast Alaska is one of two major remaining productive salmon systems in the world, in large part because of natural capital assets, including the planet’s largest tract of mostly undisturbed coastal temperate rainforest. The region’s two largest private sector economies include commercial fishing and seafood processing, which support over 10,000 jobs, and the visitor products industry, which contributes $1 billion to the annual economic impact.
The SeaBank report notes that warming temperatures due to climate change are expected to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as record heat, the intense precipitation events associated with marine heat waves and other anomalous events.
The report warned that low-marine productivity is becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change and that these changes in the marine environment increase the importance of protecting freshwater habitat for salmon populations from high levels of degradation caused by industrial logging.
The full 2020 annual report can be accessed online at seabank.org