Salmon lead a largely secret life when they leave rivers and streams and migrate into the Pacific Ocean where they spend most of their lives.
On Wednesday morning, a team of 21 Canadian, American, Japanese, Korean and Russian scientists officially brought a close to an international Gulf of Alaska expedition, the first-ever deep water scientific survey of salmon in the gulf, which was conducted aboard Russian fisheries research vessel Professor Kaganovskiy, which normally carries out salmon abundance surveys in the western Pacific.
2019 is the International Year of the Salmon and the expedition – created by Dick Beamish, formerly with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Brian Riddell, executive director of the Pacific Salmon Foundation – raised $1.2 million to help charter the Professor Kaganovskiy. The expedition’s scientific and cultural objectives included having scientists from several different countries work together onboard a ship, overcoming differences in language and culture while collecting and sharing data.
Beamish said the survey made some significant discoveries about salmon in the survey region and he remarked on how quickly, using new technology in combination with the experience of the scientific team and Russian crew, results from the research were delivered.
“When I was active in doing research like this it would take months to get the information out and this crew had it out literally in hours,” Beamish said.
One of the expedition objectives included getting an abundance estimate of salmon in the Gulf of Alaska, now estimated at 54.5 million salmon for the survey area.
Beamish went on to say the study results have put scientists on the right path to make the discoveries needed to be effective stewards in a future of changing ecosystems.
“Everyone at the end of the day was saying this is great. This wasn’t just a one-time thing. We have to do this again,” he said.
Svetlana Esenkulova, with the Pacific Salmon Foundation, a biological oceanographer studying plankton and how it affects Pacific salmon, said more expeditions like the Gulf of Alaska survey are needed.
“So many mysteries. So many answers. Many more mysteries. We have to do it and we have to do in on a more global scale.”
To learn more about the expedition, research and scientists involved, visit http://yearofthesalmon.org/gulf-of-alaska-expedition/.