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Advancing understanding of climate adaptation and resilience in Gulf of Alaska fishing communities.

Climate change has taken hold in Gulf of Alaska fisheries, with numerous fisheries disasters over the last several years, and continuing ecosystem changes that are altering foundational relationships between the people in the region and the place. Across the many geographically isolated and fishing dependent communities within the Gulf of Alaska, fisheries losses may be devastating for local economies that lack economic diversity, maintain fishing-dependent food systems, and have cultural fishing practices that cannot be replaced. Despite the tremendous costs of declining fisheries in the region, there is a dearth of adaptation planning to ensure the resilience of fishing communities into the future. This project addresses the critical need for fishing communities in the Gulf of Alaska to formalize fisheries resilience strategies in adaptation plans, focusing on three of the most highly dependent and diverse fishing communities in the region – Cordova, Kodiak, and Sitka. These communities serve as critical infrastructure, service, and culture hubs for numerous smaller, outlying communities that will be integrated into the community of practice established through this project and into the development of their local fisheries adaptation plans. Through participatory research nested in local and regional fisheries networks, this work will advance an understanding of climate adaptation and resilience for communities highly engaged and dependent upon fishing for economic, social, and cultural well-being, directly addressing CAFA Program initiatives. Using interdisciplinary, place-based methods, this project will advance integrated scientific research and build partnerships between scientists, fishermen, fisheries stakeholders, Tribes, and Tribal citizens that will enhance local planning capacity for and responsiveness to climate change, addressing NOAA’s long-term climate research goals. Funding is requested to support local adaptation planning capacity within Gulf of Alaska fishing communities; for conducting focus groups with fisheries stakeholders, scientists, and planners; for developing fisheries adaptation plans and templates; and for broadly distributing project findings and lessons learned. This proposal is targeting Competition 6, Type B: Climate and Fisheries Adaptation Program – promoting resilience and adaptation of U.S. marine fisheries and fishing communities.

This proposal leverages ongoing social science research on climate-driven changes to marine ecosystems and adaptation planning within NOAA’s AFSC GOA-CLIM project and Alaska Sea Grant’s Adapt Alaska initiative, the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve coastal training program, and local stewardship and climate resilience initiatives of regional fishing organizations and science partners on the project team – the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, and the Prince William Sound Science Center. The work will strengthen localized and sustainable fisheries resilience and adaptation planning capacity that is grounded in local climate-driven vulnerabilities, socio-ecological systems, and resilience goals. The project team is dedicated to ensuring the benefits of this work are widely distributed beyond the Gulf of Alaska with fisheries adaptation plan templates and multifaceted targeted communication strategies for diverse audiences of fisheries stakeholders, adaptation planners, scientists, and policymakers. Founded in place-based, participatory methods focused on local capacity strengthening, this project will address NOAA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion through enhancing science-public partnerships and scientific capacity amongst underrepresented groups, including women, residents of rural communities, and Tribal partners.

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