Western Alaska Marine Salmon Studies

The Western Alaska Marine Salmon Studies (WAMSS) is a BSFA program in cooperation with National Marine Fisheries Service to complement the efforts, goals and objectives developed by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) for the Bering Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS).

The future of the Bering Sea fishery resources is uncertain: the lack of long-term, large-scale observation systems for salmon in the Bering Sea has inhibited scientific understanding of these changes. A strong coordinated effort is necessary to detect and monitor changes in salmon and their ecosystem because stocks from all major salmon producing nations are distributed in the Bering Sea, intermingle in international waters, and migrate across the national economic zones.

The extreme variations on record associated with salmon in the Bering Sea points towards a common marine source of mortality. Salmon spend more than 80% of their life in the ocean. However, virtually nothing is known about salmon once they enter the Bering Sea waters, particularly western Alaska populations during their first year in the ocean – the period most critical to their ultimate survival.

WAMSS provides a mechanism to engage in a collaborative effort to expand the United States portion of the collaborative parties to the existing BASIS program. WAMSS is coordinated with other fishery agencies, funding sources and plans.

The intent of WAMSS is not to supplement or duplicate existing research but to add funds to specifically address marine research needs for western Alaska. The participating agencies and universities will use WAMSS data to develop spatially-explicit models incorporating oceanographic data and salmon migration, growth, and mortality processes to advance our understanding of the causes of changes in productivity of salmon populations.

A WAMSS Working Group, composed of members from U.S. Geological Survey, University of Alaska Fairbanks, National Marine Fisheries Service, Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game coordinates individual plans, and develops the implementation schedule for WAMSS research.