CLIMATE CHANGE IN A GROWING CONCERN IN SOUTHEAST ALASKA. Receding glaciers, drying wetlands and yellow cedar declines are all symptomatic of climate change and foretell potentially drastic economic and biological consequences in the region. Yet, we remain ill-equipped to manage the effects of climate change due to our poor understanding of the physical and biological processes that characterize the region and a general paucity of baseline data necessary for environmental monitoring.
DETRIMENTAL MARINE MAMMAL/HUMAN INTERACTIONS ARE ON THE RISE. Humpback whales are becoming increasingly entangled in fishing gear, which can have consequences for the animals' health (scarring, infection, and possible death from drowning and starvation). Entanglements also diminish the livelihood of fishers by damaging nets and lines, resulting in costly repairs, downtime and the creation of derelict gear that further harms fish and wildlife. As well, marine mammal populations compete for valuable fishing resources, depredate fishing gear and consume hatchery-reared smolts. And as more cruise-ships ply the inshore waters of Southeast Alaska, the potential for acoustic disturbance and ship-strikes increases.
PROPOSED INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT NECESSITATES FURTHER IMPACT ASSESSMENTS. As Southeast Alaska continues to develop, so does the need for cheaper energy, transportation and shipping. On Baranof Island and elsewhere in the region, research is needed to assess or “guide" proposed industrial developments to ensure that their impact remains low.
Unfortunately, shortfalls in federal and state spending are being felt at all levels and funds for research into these and other critical areas are drying up. Alaska Whale Foundation has continued to conduct innovative research, conservation and education programs in these difficult economic times by eliciting the support of private donors that are compassionate about conservation, and by maintaining low overhead and administrative costs.