The 2022 International Year of the Salmon’s 2022 Pan-Pacific Winter High Seas Expedition is underway, with participating research vessels from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Canada and Russian and over 60 scientists and crew on board.
The expedition is being hailed by IYS and the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission in Vancouver, British Columbia, as the largest ever Pan-Pacific expedition effort to study salmon and their ecosystems in the North Pacific Ocean.
Participating vessels include the NOAA ship Bell M. Shimada, Russia’s R/V Tinro, Canada’s CCGS Sir John Franklin and the Canadian commercial fishing vessel F/V Raw Spirit.
“With climate change we are seeing now impacts are severe,” said Laurie Weitkamp, a research biologist at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center Newport Research Station in Newport, Ore., and the U.S. co-chief scientist for the expedition.
“Most of the salmon’s life is out in the ocean and at some point they ‘go into a black box’,” Weitkamp said during a teleconference shortly before the expedition got underway.
Researchers want to know where these salmon are in the ocean during mid-winter and learn more about how climate variability and associated changes in the physical environment influences the abundance, distribution, migration and growth of Pacific salmon.
The expedition will utilize technologies such as genomics, environmental DNA and ocean gliders to test their potential to enhance monitoring of salmon and the ecosystem. DNA, short for deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in living organisms that contains the biological instructions for building and maintain these organisms.
Recent advances in DNA analyses allow researchers to determine the river of origin for salmon caught during the expedition, allowing researchers to understand how different stocks of salmon are distributed across the North Pacific Ocean.
The expedition is a collaborative effort of NPAFC member countries Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, the United States and their partners. Researchers hope the 2022 expedition builds off of successful international expeditions into the Gulf of Alaska in 2019 and 2020, and the 2021 Western Pacific Winter Expedition.