SeaBank Report Reflects Argument To Protect Coastal Areas In Southeast Alaska
The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust
New annual SeaBank report makes economic case for protecting Southeast Alaska’s coastal ecosystems
SITKA, AK – In April of 2023, the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust released its fourth annual SeaBank Report. The report quantifies the economic value of the goods, services, and ecological function generated by Southeast Alaska’s rich natural capital and also identifies potential risks to that capital, including climate change, industrial logging, and industrial trawl fishery bycatch. The 2022 report focuses on recent research related to climate change impacts on Southeast Alaska, including projections for much warmer temperatures under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, and identifies mitigation measures that would help protect SeaBank’s green and blue carbon.
The Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust coined the term “SeaBank” to describe Southeast Alaska’s diverse coastline, which extends 500 miles from Metlakatla to Yakutat, and its interconnected network of land, water, vegetation, wildlife, resources, economies and culture. It launched the SeaBank program in 2017 to serve several functions, including increasing public awareness about Southeast Alaska’s natural bank, measuring the annual capital that this bank provides, and quantifying the value generated for local, national, and global beneficiaries.
“As our region weighs resource management decisions and develops adaptation strategies for climate change, we think it’s critical that stakeholders and policy makers understand the true value of SeaBank’s annual dividends in goods and services,” said Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust founder and Sitka-based commercial fisherman, Linda Behnken. “The fisheries, forests, waterways, and wildlife will support our communities for generations provided we safeguard ecosystem health.”
Some highlights from the 2022 SeaBank report include:
? The physical and biological diversities of SeaBank’s salmon-producing watersheds are globally unique. Southeast Alaska possesses one of the two largest remaining productive salmon systems in the world in large part because of natural capital assets that include the planet’s largest tract of mostly undisturbed coastal temperate rainforest.
? SeaBank’s coastal temperate rainforest is a globally significant and irreplaceable carbon sink. Old-growth forests store much more carbon relative to other forests, making them critical to climate regulation. The live tree carbon storage capacity in SeaBank forests is nearly twice as high as other U.S. forests. Preserving the region’s many maturing second-growth forests is also critical because the increase in the carbon balance is highest for trees between 100 and 200 years old.
? Three-fourths of all fish caught in Southeast Alaska use the region’s estuaries during some part of their life cycle, including major groundfish species such as halibut, sablefish, cod and rockfish. Salmon pass through estuaries twice — during outmigration as smolts and when returning to spawn.
? Southeast Alaska’s two largest private sector economies include the commercial fishing and seafood processing industry, which support more than 10,000 jobs, and the visitor products industry, which provides $1 billion in annual economic impact.
? Warming temperatures due to climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as record heat, intense precipitation events associated with atmospheric rivers, marine heat waves, and other anomalous weather events.
? Seagrass meadows and kelp forests in particular are highly vulnerable ecosystems with low ability to relocate and high sensitivity to ocean warming, marine heat waves, and acidification.
? Low marine productivity is becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change. These changes in the marine environment’s productivity increase the importance of protecting freshwater habitat for salmon populations.
? Federally managed trawl fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea are killing highly migratory, highly valued fish (e.g. halibut, sablefish, Chinook salmon) that would otherwise migrate through, mature, inhabit and/or spawn in Southeast Alaska waters.
“The 2022 SeaBank report underscores that Southeast Alaska is one of the most productive ecosystems in the world,” said Behnken. “These coastal ecosystems are also highly vulnerable to a rapidly warming climate and industrial activities that diminish the productivity and overall value of Southeast Alaska’s ecosystem. In 2022 we celebrated reinstatement of Roadless Rule protections for the Tongass National Forest, a critical step forward for our planet and our region’s economic health and resilience.”
SeaBank’s 2022 annual report can be accessed on the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust website or found here.
The Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust aims to educate, activate and inspire consumers, while engaging community-based fishermen in programs that promote healthy fisheries. By combining ecology, economics, and the common good, we work to ensure resilient communities and robust resources throughout coastal Alaska.