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Nature cover study provides new standards for reliable fisheries
Date:6/2/2010

ifornia, people have managed ecosystems with concrete. We build dams, line channels, and build flood control structures. Rivers need room to work, and they make salmon habitat if you let them. This research shows that sustainability depends on a healthy ecosystem, but our technological fixes to ecosystem problems usually have unintended consequences that make matters worse for salmon."

Salmon population loss is not confined to places with lots of people. The same activities that started eroding salmon diversity in the Columbia and Sacramento rivers a hundred years ago are spreading northward quickly.

"Bristol Bay, the most productive salmon ecosystem in the world, is facing decisions about major development proposals such as the giant Pebble Mine copper and gold mining facility, as well as hydroelectric dams," explains Stanford. "This research shows that the choices made in Bristol Bay today will help determine whether the fishery remains reliable for the next hundred years and beyond."

Hilborn adds, "Offshore drilling has also been proposed in Bristol Bay, and a spill similar to what we're seeing in the Gulf of Mexico could devastate this productive fishery. However the diversity in timing of migration to the ocean and age at maturation among different sockeye populations that is, the portfolio effect - could afford them protection. In essence, protecting diversity is a form of insurance against the unexpected."

The lessons from Bristol Bay will be important for communities that rely on sustainable ecosystems, as well as the decision makers charged with managing them.

"This is a ground-breaking piece of work," says Jeff Hutchings, a professor of biology at Dalhousie University in Canada and former chair of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, who was not involved with the study. "It's the strongest evidence to date that there's a financial benefit to maintaining population diversity and a great
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Contact: Liz Neeley
LizNeeley@COMPASSonline.org
206-954-1150
Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea
Source:Eurekalert

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