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Economic Risks to Alaska Communities From Ocean Acidification

The highly productive fisheries of Alaska are located in seas projected to experience rapid transitions in temperature, pH, and other chemical parameters. Many of the marine organisms that are most affected by ocean acidification (OA) contribute substantially to the state’s commercial fisheries and traditional subsistence way of life. This study evaluates patterns of dependence on marine resources within Alaska that could be negatively affected by OA, as well as community economic characteristics, to assess the potential risk to the fishery sector and to local economies from OA. We used a risk assessment framework developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to combine projections of ocean chemistry, fisheries harvest data, and demographic information. The fisheries examined were: shellfish, salmon and other finfish. The final index incorporates all of these data to compare overall risk among Alaska census areas. The analysis showed that regions in southeast and southwest Alaska that are highly reliant on fishery harvests and have relatively lower incomes and employment alternatives likely face the highest risk from OA. There are also some surprising results.  For example, Anchorage has a relatively high index of risk, while Kodiak’s is lower than might be expected.