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NCCOS Research Project

Assessing the Social and Cultural Importance of Subsistence Salmon in Alaska in the Context of the Natural Resource Damages Assessment Process

Region(s) of Study: U.S. States and Territories / Alaska

Primary Contact(s):

This project began in May 2014 and is Ongoing

We are developing and validating a survey to measure the social and cultural importance of subsistence salmon harvest and use in Alaska. In the event of an oil spill or other hazard, NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration can use our protocol to assess socio-cultural losses and develop restoration plans.

Why We Care
When an oil spill occurs, NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration and other trustees assess injuries to public trust resources, including coastal habitats and the plants and animals, and people that rely on them. After assessing the impacts of the spill, NOAA develops restoration plans that fully compensate the public for the injuries and seeks reimbursement from the responsible party to pay for the assessment and restoration.

Natural Resource Damage Assessments routinely measure the economic value of lost public trust resources. We are now improving our tools to assess way of life, cultural or religious practices associated with resource use, social capital, roles, language, knowledge and skill transfer, and subsistence use.

Alaska, with its abundance of natural and energy resources, is a logical place for NOAA to develop tools to assess damage that could be associated with an oil spill or other hazard event. Within Alaska, we focus on the salmon fishery because of its size, geographic range, and significance to multiple groups there, including commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishers. We further focus on subsistence use because of its importance to rural residents and Alaska Natives who rely on natural resources for food, shelter, clothing, and the maintenance of cultural traditions, among other things. The measurement of subsistence and cultural use losses has presented a challenge to the NRDA process in the past.

What We Are Doing
We are developing a protocol to describe and quantify the social and cultural importance of subsistence salmon harvest and use in Alaska. We’ll test the protocol in selected Alaskan communities and assess the validity of the questions. The resulting product – validated survey instruments or question modules and guidance on when and how to administer them in response to a spill or other hazard event – will be delivered to NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration.

The project team includes partners from NOAA (NCCOS, Office of Response and Restoration, and Alaska Fisheries Science Center) and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

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NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources, in direct support of NOS priorities, offices, and customers, and to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

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