Potential Climate Change Effects On Hunting
Alaska has released its first detailed statewide report on the negative health impacts of climate change. Here are the predictions. https://t.co/kK3Jgigzux pic.twitter.com/53ANNcC7mO
— Anchorage Daily News (@adndotcom) January 9, 2018
You can see the complete reported compiled by the state here:.
The Daily News’ Tegan Hanlon has a good synposis here, including some points about the effects climate change can have on Alaska’s critical subsistence lifestyle:
— Increasingly difficult hunting: Thinning sea ice is making hunting more dangerous. Increasing temperatures could also make storing and harvesting wild foods more difficult. Higher air temperatures could increase cases of foodborne botulism if foods are not properly prepared and stored in a way that prevents them from spoiling.
Rural Alaskans harvest about 34 million pounds of wild foods each year, James Fall, research director of the Division of Subsistence at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said in an interview.
Any threat to that food supply, he said, is a major problem. Climate change has already led to poor ice conditions, thawing permafrost and changing migration routes.
“One cannot understate the threat that these kind of rapid changes are having and could continue to have on especially rural communities in the state,” he said.
In Utqia?vik, the coastline is eroding, ice cellars are flooding and there’s less and less sea ice, said Rosemarie Habeich, director of the North Slope Borough Department of Health and Social Services.
“It’s overwhelming sometimes,” she said. “It’s scary when I think of it in terms of the enormity of it.”
She said she believes the town is already seeing elements of depression and anxiety. People can’t always do what they once did, she said, like hold bonfires and picnics on a nearby beach that has now disappeared, covered by the sea.
Here’s what some of the state says about hunting effects:
3.1.4 Food, Nutrition, and Subsistence Activity
Alaska state law defines subsistence use as “the noncommercial, customary and traditional uses of wild, renewable resources by a resident domiciled in a rural area of the state for direct personal
or family consumption as food, shelter, fuel, clothing, tools, or transportation, for the making and selling of handicraft articles out of nonedible by-products of fish and wildlife resources taken for
personal or family consumption, and for the customary trade, barter, or sharing for personal or family consumption” (State of Alaska, 2016: AS 16.05.940 ). The Alaska Federation of
Natives (AFN) describes subsistence as “the hunting, fishing, and gathering activities which traditionally constituted the economic base of life for Alaska’s Native peoples and which continue
to flourish in many areas of the state today” (AFN, 2012).
Subsistence is part of a rural economic system, called a “mixed, subsistence-market” economy, wherein families invest money into small-scale, efficient technologies to harvest wild foods.
Fishing and hunting for subsistence resources provide a reliable economic base for many rural regions. Subsistence is focused toward meeting the self-limiting needs of families and small
communities (Wolfe and Walker, 1987; Fall, 2016). Subsistence fishing and hunting are important sources of employment and nutrition in almost all rural Alaska communities, regardless
of race. Traditional and cultural activities also support a healthy diet and contribute to residents’ overall wellbeing (ADF&G, 2016; Norton-Smith, 2016).
Rising food prices, challenges to food quality and quantity, and changing food distribution patterns are all factors that could be impacted by climate change (Luber et al,. 2014; Patz et al.,
2014). Due to the specialized dietary patterns in Alaska with a heavy reliance on subsistence resources, changes to key food sources could lead to food insecurity and associated health
consequences. Many Alaska communities have already reported various changes to subsistence harvest, such as salmon die-offs related to warmer ocean waters, shifting caribou migration,
decline and range change in sea mammals, and increased variability in berry harvest (berry 25 changes have been both positive and negative; Brubaker et al., 2014; Brubaker et al., 2012; Hupp
et al., 2015).
Notable potential impacts of climate change on food, nutrition, and subsistence activity in Alaska include a northward shift in seal, walrus, and fish species; thinning sea and river ice, which
can make harvesting wild foods more precarious; increasing ocean temperatures; and permafrost changes that could alter spring run-off patterns (Cochran et al., 2013). If these changes continue to
occur, the consumption of local food sources might decrease (though the consumption of some local food sources could increase if a species moves into a new area).
Effects of Thawing Permafrost In Alaska, permafrost changes could make travel and thus the harvesting of subsistence foods more
difficult. Areas once stabilized by permafrost have started to subside, damaging transportation infrastructure and posing challenges for local populations harvesting subsistence resources (NortonSmith et al., 2016). Subsistence harvesters in Kivalina report that thawing permafrost and related erosion have decreased stream water quality, resulting in a decrease in Arctic char populations.
Salmon populations have increased in the area, but the traditional preference is for char (Brubaker et al., 2010). These challenges have led to smaller reported food harvests. If changes such as these
continue to occur, the consumption of local food sources might decrease (though the consumption of some local food sources could increase if a species moves into a new area).
Thawing permafrost creates an additional challenge to the availability of traditional foods. Traditional ice cellars are failing in some Arctic communities (Brubaker et al., 2010b). Ice cellars,
formed by digging a storage area into the permafrost, are an important component of subsistence food storage for some residents in the communities of Nuiqsut, Kivalina, Point Hope, Point Lay, Utqia?vik, Wainwright, and Kaktovik. Alaska Native people have used ice cellars for thousands of years to store food and families have used the same ice cellars for generations (Brubaker et al., 2010). As soil temperatures increase and permafrost begins to thaw, ice cellars are more likely to fail and result in food spoilage. Cellar failure could lead to foodborne illnesses from consuming
spoiled food (see Section 3.1.5) and could also lead to a crucial shortage of food for a household. Such shortages could increase food insecurity in communities (Brubaker et al, 2009b).