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Groundfish Assessment Program

Northern Bering Sea Research Area Research Planning - Community and Subsistence Workshop

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Northern Bering Sea community members participating in the NBSRA Community and Subsistence Workshop asked for continued dialogue with resource management and resource research agencies concerning the NBSRA scientific research plan.

The AFSC RACE Division continues to spearhead the development of the scientific research plan for the Northern Bering Sea Research Area (NBSRA) to study the effects of bottom trawling on benthic species and habitat. Currently, development of the plan focuses on gathering existing knowledge— local, traditional, and scientific—of the area to inform planning.

The AFSC hosted the Community and Subsistence Workshop at the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce in Anchorage, Alaska, on 24-25 February 2010. The objectives of the workshop were to communicate the intent of the NBSRA to western Alaska communities, solicit their input for the research plan, learn from their knowledge, and register their concerns. The subsistence and culture of the communities are closely tied to the environment and animals of the northern Bering Sea. Their knowledge of the area is of great value to science and resource management, while management actions and policies in the area may greatly impact their lives.

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The Northern Bering Sea communities represented at the NBSRA Community and Subsistence Workshop.
 

For the workshop, it was important to identify and invite key representatives from the diverse NBS communities. These were to include not only community leaders, but elders and hunters who could inform on subsistence activities and conservation needs. The NMFS Alaska Regional Office (AKR) and the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) provided funding to the Rural Alaska Community Action Program, Inc. (RurAL CAP) to facilitate the workshop and to support travel for the invitees identified by RurAL CAP. The staff of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) and the AKR were instrumental in widely advertising the workshop to all NBS communities and in organizing the workshop.

Over 20 communities along the eastern Bering Sea coast from Kuskokwim Bay to the Bering Straits were represented at the workshop. Also in attendance were representatives from conservation groups, the trawl fishing industry, and the Anchorage community. Pat Livingston (NPFMC Scientific and Statistical Committee Chair and AFSC Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management (REFM) Division Director) opened the workshop by emphasizing the objectives of the workshop and introducing the attending agency staff. Staff from the AKR, AFSC, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proceeded to present information on the policies, research planning, subsistence species, and proposed research in the NBSRA.

The Bering Sea Elders Advisory Group presented maps of some critical areas of subsistence usage in the Nunivak Island, Etolin Strait, and Kuskokwim Bay region. Community participants raised questions and commented vigorously on each presentation. Ample discussion flowed on a broad array of issues pertaining to their subsistence and socioeconomic interests. Livingston closed the workshop with a summary of main concerns raised by the communities to be considered in the research planning and management of the NBSRA.

The resounding request from the communities was for continual, productive dialogue with the resource management and research agencies in the NBS. The AFSC recognizes that the experiences and traditions of the subsistence communities in the NBS are integral to understanding the ecosystem and, in themselves, valuable cultural assets, and that effort must be made for better relations and communications with the communities. More information on the workshop is available on the NPFMC website.

By Cynthia Yeung

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