Does Alaska Hold the Key?

Researchers studying salmon in Alaska’s Bristol Bay think they’ve discovered the key to saving B.C.’s wild salmon, and that key is much simpler than many would expect: diversity. The researchers noted that the bay contains what they dub a “diversified portfolio” of salmon, according to an article in Thursday’s Vancouver Sun. In layman’s terms, that means many different populations of salmon which can support each other over the years. Some of the populations prefer hot weather, and some cold, some like dry weather, some like wet.

“Each population experiences its own ups and downs based on environmental conditions and pure chance,” says the study’s lead author, Daniel Schindler of the University of Washington, “but given sufficient diversity there are enough winners to make up for the losers every year.”[…read full article]

The researchers note that “techno-fixes” like hatcheries won’t work to save B.C.’s wild salmon because those produce identical populations rather than diversified ones – meaning that in good years all will flourish and in bad years all will die.

They also note that their findings have larger implications for diversity, especially since individual populations of multiple species are rapidly disappearing. Co-author Ray Hilborn calls the team’s research a “game-changer” for managing not only fisheries, but entire ecosystems.

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