IYS Research Themes & Governance

Photo credit: Jonny Armstrong

International Year of the Salmon Research Themes

The IYS has multiple research themes to further our understandings of the mechanisms behind salmon survival and productivity, and what this means to the people, ecosystems and habitats that rely on them. Click on each theme to learn more!

Salmon are a keystone species and iconic indicators of ecological health. However, there is no centralized source of information on the status of salmon and their environment, nor any consistent methodology for reporting and understanding salmon populations and their diverse environmental conditions. To effectively manage salmon, we must first be able to share knowledge regarding the status of salmon and their environments in a consistent manner on an accessible platform. Only then can we consider how the status of salmon differs across watersheds, regions, countries, and the hemisphereWith this understanding, and we can begin to recognize and pursue  how to sustainably manage salmon at different scales and work towards the resiliency of both salmon and people. 

The International Year of the Salmon is working to evaluate a variety of diverse approaches to assessing the status of salmon and their environments, and to promote a consistent methodology that can measure and report these variables. This will ultimately facilitate a greater overall understanding of salmon, and will allow the status of these species to be tracked more efficiently in a future that is increasingly uncertain. 

As natural environmental variability, climate change and human actions continue to alter ecosystems, salmon face an uncertain future. To effectively manage what can and cannot be controlled and mitigated during a time of rapid change, new insight is needed on how these changes will affect salmon. While the effects on salmon from some of these changes may be localized, it is likely that there are similar ecological processes taking place across the hemisphere.  Effective communication and collaboration at the hemispheric level will therefore strengthen our understanding of salmon in an increasingly volatile environment. If we can develop a better understanding of how the salmosphere is evolving to adequately predict future changes, our approach to managing these challenges and improving the resilience of salmon and the people who depend on them becomes more adaptive and effective. 

The International Year of the Salmon seeks to bring researchers across the salmosphere together in order to share findings regarding how salmon are affected by an environment that is rapidly changing due to natural variability and human impact. To effectively prepare groups such as Indigenous communities, policymakers, and managers to meet the challenges salmon may face in the future, the IYS aims to better understand these challenges through a series of high impact projects. These include proposed and ongoing projects such as a series of high seas research cruises in the North Pacific, a framework for identifying bottlenecks across salmon life history stages, and an examination of climate change and future data projections in relation to salmon and their environments.  

One of the chief organizers of our High Seas Expeditions, Dr. Beamish, likes to say that what we need to know about salmon, we mostly do not know. With so many recent advancements in technology and analytical methods, it is now possible to use these tools to make major advancements in understanding salmon and how the changing salmosphere is impacting them. From new telemetric methods of tracking salmon, to the use of environmental DNA, to isotope and otolith studies, there are groups of people across the salmosphere already doing this groundbreaking work. Their efforts can be linked and amplified through the IYS to realize their development and application more rapidly and efficiently to gaps in our understanding. The IYS aims to further advances in new/emerging technologies and analytical methods that are immediately available to study salmon and understand their life history patterns and to better manage these species. 

The cultural and economic impact of salmon in the context of environmental change cannot be ignored. Since the wellbeing of salmon and people are inextricably linked, it is important that the IYS considers the human dimensions of our associations with salmon. Salmon are not only an important source of food to many people, they are also culturally significant and an important aspect of many coastal economies. As the global population and demand for salmon rises while climate change alters ecosystems, there is increased uncertainty around the fate of salmon. Looking to the future, it will be imperative to create tools and frameworks for acting quickly and effectively to manage salmon on multiple levels, from local to hemispheric, to increase the resilience of both salmon and people. The human dimension of the IYS seeks to involve all interested parties—researchers, managers, policymakers, Indigenous Peoples, harvesters, and the public—in collaborating to increase the resiliency of both salmon and people. The IYS strives to increase resiliency by developing innovative decision-making tools that incorporate multiple types of knowledge (scientific, local, traditional) and input from all stakeholders.  By facilitating conversations and collaboration across the salmosphere, people can work together to successfully manage salmon across all levels, from local to hemispheric.

In order to build resilience between salmon and people, the IYS is committed to developing a framework in which Indigenous management systems and Indigenous knowledge are fairly and effectively applied. Applications of traditional ecological knowledge of salmon life history are important to scientific research. On top of this, the IYS is aware of the many different cultural, economic and political meanings of salmon in regards to the culturally diverse group of member nations involved with the NPAFC (Canada, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States). Building on the human dimensions of salmon is crucial to having a well-rounded outburst of research and outreach during the IYS initiative.  

Arguably, one of the largest barriers to salmon research is rapid access to standardized data.  Information systems play an important role in bringing together salmon data and resources into one easily accessible framework. We have emerging technology to rapidly share data and intelligence about what we know, to collaboratively work on what we know we don’t know and effectively respond to completely unexpected surprises. The International Year of the Salmon  is conducting a Data Mobilization project that seeks to use that technology to create an open-access information system(s) that will house and mobilize historic, current, and future data on salmon research and management.  Our projects will consider western scientific and indigenous knowledge and management systems. 

International Year of the Salmon Governance

The International Year of the Salmon (IYS) has partnerships and collaboration at the core of its values. So far, we have established meaningful partnerships with organizations around the Northern Hemisphere - including government agencies from all NPAFC and NASCO member countries (Canada, the European Union, Japan, Norway, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States), as well as Indigenous partners and partners in NGOs, academia, and private industry.

Governance Structure

The International Year of the Salmon has established a governance structure to bring partners together across the Northern Hemisphere to plan and implement outreach and research activities, which by the time the IYS wraps up its initiative in 2022 will have established the conditions for resilience between salmon and people. Steering committees have been established in the North Pacific and North Atlantic to bring partners together and help support planning, implementation, and fundraising. Along with this, the Technical Team helps ensure that IYS hemispheric activities are linked. Staff in the NPAFC and NASCO Secretariats are responsible for the management of the IYS. The NPAFC has also implemented Theme Counsel Groups with experts from each member country (Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the United States) to participate in jointly planning research and outreach activities. 

The North Pacific Steering Committee is a group of IYS partners who nominate representatives to attend annual meetings and provide assistance and guidance to the IYS initiative. The NPSC is made up of members from all five NPAFC countries (Canada, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States).

The IYS-Working Group (IYS-WG) exists to coordinate the planning and implementation of the North Pacific portion of the IYS initiative. The IYS-WG reports back to the NPAFC on the IYS progress each year at the annual meeting. 

The Theme Counsel Groups (TCGs) are an important mechanism for engaging all five North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) member countries in the International Year of the Salmon (IYS). They are based on the IYS themes: Status of Salmon, Salmon in a Changing Salmosphere, Human Dimensions, New Frontiers, Information Systems, and Outreach and Communication. 

The North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) is an inter-governmental organization that was established by the Convention for the Conservation of Anadromous Stocks in the North Pacific Ocean. This convention was signed on 11 February, 1992 and took effect on 16 February, 1993. Anadromous fish covered under the Convention include chum, coho, pink, sockeye, Chinook, and cherry salmon, as well as steelhead trout. The Convention’s current member countries include: Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America.

The objective of the NPAFC is to promote the conservation of anadromous stocks  (Pacific salmon and steelhead trout) in the Convention Area. The Convention Area includes the international waters of the North Pacific Ocean and its adjacent seas north of 33° North beyond the 200-mile zone (exclusive economic zones) of the coastal States. Visit the NPAFC website here.

The International Year of the Salmon is working to evaluate a variety of diverse approaches to assessing the status of salmon and their environments, and to promote a consistent methodology that can measure and report these variables. This will ultimately facilitate a greater overall understanding of salmon, and will allow the status of these species to be tracked more efficiently in a future that is increasingly uncertain. 

The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) is an international organization, established by an inter-governmental Convention in 1984. The objective of NASCO is to conserve, restore, enhance, and rationally manage Atlantic salmon through international co-operation taking account of the best available scientific information. The marine migrations of the Atlantic salmon take it from its river of birth to distant-water feeding grounds in the sub-Arctic and into the fisheries zones of other countries where it may be exploited. Rational management of this resource can, therefore, only be achieved through international co-operation. Regulatory and other measures established by NASCO and its Parties have greatly reduced harvests of salmon all around the North Atlantic. Visit the NASCO website here. 

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