Alaska’s salmon fisheries are one of the more intensely managed natural resources in the world. The state’s salmon fisheries support recreational, subsistence, and commercial harvest with multiple billions of dollars flowing into the economy, and define the cultural identity of many Alaskans. Fishery management practices rely on historic records to set policies with two goals: to meet salmon escapement quota and to maximize salmon harvest. At the same time, rapid social and ecological changes to the sub-Arctic are already impacting salmon runs and fisheries management. Combined with the inability of fishery managers to test the outcome of proposed policy changes, an understanding of the role social and ecological drivers play in harvest and effort is required. To address the two-forked problem of understanding socio-ecological dynamics and potential policy responses to ecological and social changes, we (1) conducted stakeholder workshops to solicit key system drivers, (2) built an integrated agent based model (ABM) of the system’s socio-ecological dynamics, and (3) tested the impacts of alternative future scenarios of ecological, social, and policy changes on the system’s outcomes. We previously constructed and validated a high-fidelity, data-driven, agent-based model of the Kenai River, Alaska that simulates seasonal harvest of sockeye and Chinook salmon, the fishing activities of the personal use fishery, commercial drift, and set gillnet agents. We study the role of key stakeholder and ecological drivers, using the ABM decision support tool, and their implications for fisheries management policies. Analysis of the scenario based studies found resilience in management of commercial fisheries to changing salmon migration dynamics, a lack of adaptive capacity in recreational (personal use) dipnet users to altered sockeye salmon runs, and the possible utility of introducing management measures in the dipnet fishery to manipulate sockeye escapement levels. These findings represent the usefulness of this type of ABM in assisting fishery managers everywhere in investigating possible future outcomes of different management or ecological scenarios.
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