Shellfish have long been important subsistence, recreational, and commercial fisheries in the Kachemak Bay region of Alaska. Native clam populations in southcentral Alaska have declined significantly since the late 1900s to the point where fisheries are now closed and harvest opportunities are lost. The causes of population decline remain unknown, but may be related to shifts in habitat. As ocean conditions continue to change, there is an immediate need for decision-support tools to inform management efforts and enhance the productivity of native clam species. The goal of this study is to develop a baseline reference of habitat conditions integrated with environmental variables from which change can be measured.
The team will integrate marine ecosystem research and monitoring, landscape level habitat assessment expertise, bivalve spawning and rearing methods, and ecological trends and maps from partners to:
Synthesize habitat information
- Assemble spatial data – compile contemporary and historical habitat data, distribution and relative abundance for key bivalve species.
- Develop deductive habitat models – research the timing and conditions for spawning, larval dispersal and recruitment.
- Pilot rehabilitation techniques – test feasibility of spawning gardens.
- Monitor oceanographic conditions – supplement the NERR SWMP protocols in Kachemak Bay to incorporate more rigorous pH measurements for ocean acidification.
Collaboratively address conservation needs
- Identify priorities – survey stakeholders to gain insight into local management issues, and inform and refine tool development.
- Develop decision support tools – create visualization and analysis tools to predict favorable conditions and inform sustainable recovery efforts.
- Apply project results – deliver framework that advances the development and implementation of restoration tools and supports project partners.
- Involve stakeholders – foster stewardship, harvest sustainability, and best management practices of bivalves through end-user engagement, public education and outreach.
- Document lessons learned – support ecosystem based management by packaging tools and processes for future use and with other species of concern.
Researchers, decision-makers, and stakeholders in Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet are partnering to establish a framework upon which ecosystem-based management questions can be explored and rehabilitation efforts can be built. Working collaboratively, we will promote native bivalve population recovery that is consistent with the long-term sustainability of a healthy and functional ecosystem.
This project is led by Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Landscape Ecology Program of Alaska Center for Conservation Science at the University of Alaska Anchorage. For more information, contact the project team: