Proposed Abstract Title

Shifting Baselines in the Pacific Northwest: the Story of Pacific Herring and the observations of San Juan County Fishers

Type of Presentation

Oral

Session Title

Tools and Strategies for Growing Citizen Science

Location

2016SSEC

Description

Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) is important forage for the threatened Puget Sound Chinook salmon. Herring stocks are found across Puget Sound, two stocks inhabit the San Juan Islands. Pacific herring is considered a keystone species because of its high productivity and is an important prey item. In the San Juan Islands, one of the two herring stocks is considered extirpated and the other at very low levels. Given the importance of herring to Chinook (recovery), what can be done to recover herring in the San Juan Islands? Alongside herring is eelgrass, its favorite spawning substrate. Did herring collapse with the loss of eelgrass? Are there other potential causes? Indigenous traditional knowledge and historic sources seem to suggest that in the past there was higher prevalence of locally adapted, distinct herring populations. We will discuss the latest research on herring and offer next steps for restoration and assessment.

In recent decades, there has been an effort to integrate biological data with local ecological knowledge in order to construct long-term ecological baselines. These baselines can provide a qualitative framework that can be used to gauge the success of conservation activities. Pacific herring are a key species of Salish Sea food webs and the target of on-going conservation efforts. Here, we present the results of an effort to collect the local ecological knowledge of elderly fishers in San Juan County, WA. We conducted interviews with experienced fishers to evaluate the cultural significance and abundance trends of herring. Interview data suggested that herring were more abundant in the mid-20th century than today and were considered an important source of food and bait in San Juan County. There was also evidence of shifting baselines in the perception of ecosystem health among fishers from different generations.

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Shifting Baselines in the Pacific Northwest: the Story of Pacific Herring and the observations of San Juan County Fishers

2016SSEC

Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) is important forage for the threatened Puget Sound Chinook salmon. Herring stocks are found across Puget Sound, two stocks inhabit the San Juan Islands. Pacific herring is considered a keystone species because of its high productivity and is an important prey item. In the San Juan Islands, one of the two herring stocks is considered extirpated and the other at very low levels. Given the importance of herring to Chinook (recovery), what can be done to recover herring in the San Juan Islands? Alongside herring is eelgrass, its favorite spawning substrate. Did herring collapse with the loss of eelgrass? Are there other potential causes? Indigenous traditional knowledge and historic sources seem to suggest that in the past there was higher prevalence of locally adapted, distinct herring populations. We will discuss the latest research on herring and offer next steps for restoration and assessment.

In recent decades, there has been an effort to integrate biological data with local ecological knowledge in order to construct long-term ecological baselines. These baselines can provide a qualitative framework that can be used to gauge the success of conservation activities. Pacific herring are a key species of Salish Sea food webs and the target of on-going conservation efforts. Here, we present the results of an effort to collect the local ecological knowledge of elderly fishers in San Juan County, WA. We conducted interviews with experienced fishers to evaluate the cultural significance and abundance trends of herring. Interview data suggested that herring were more abundant in the mid-20th century than today and were considered an important source of food and bait in San Juan County. There was also evidence of shifting baselines in the perception of ecosystem health among fishers from different generations.