In Spring 2019, FAST Lab began designing and implementing a project in the nearshore waters around Kuskokwim Bay, Etolin Strait and Nunivak Island that aims to strengthen a collaboration between a large commercial fishing fleet and Alaskan Native communities, whereby co-produced environmental data will benefit both groups. This project leverages an existing working group composed of 5 representatives from the Alaska Seafood Cooperative (a groundfish commercial fishery in Alaska) and 5 representatives (Elders) from villages in the region, known as the Chaninik Qaluyat Nunivak (CQN) Working Group to develop and deploy water temperature sensors in areas of key interest to both parties. The CQN Working Group was established to address tensions stemming from overlapping use of Kuskokwim Bay area fishing grounds by tribal community commercial and subsistence users and off-shore commercial bottom-trawl fisheries. Building on her work in Norton Sound, FAST Lab Researcher, Mabel Baldwin-Schaeffer, established a network of partners including the CQN Working Group, local fishers, ecologists, human dimensions scientists, and gear designers to create simple, cost-effective temperature monitoring arrays suitable for deployment from local vessels (e.g. small skiffs) in the study area.
Members of both the off-shore and tribal community fisheries volunteered to deploy the sensors. Twelve inner-shore and outer-shore locations (6 each) were selected to allow representation of each group. Beginning in early May, moorings were deployed to collect temperature data at depths up to 51 m. Retrieval of moorings will occur out of Tununak, Kipnuk and Platinum, where vessel arrangements have been crafted. Mooring recovery commenced in August and is still underway.
Next steps include the collaborative assessment of the sensor data. This project is strengthening communication despite the strong cultural and economic gradient represented by the participants and demonstrates APU’s commitment to community-based co-production of knowledge and understanding using multicultural and interdisciplinary approaches.