Translate page with Google

Pulitzer Center Update December 15, 2022

Panel Review: Boom and Bust in the Bering Sea

Author:
Men drill into ice that has accumulated on the deck of a ship
English

Project

Into the Ice

Climatic changes have put a legendary winter snow crab fishery at a perilous crossroads.

author #1 image author #2 image
Multiple Authors
two men in fishing gear drag a plastic container across a muddy beach
Ryan Hanley, left, and Robert Monfore pull a tote of salmon back to the beach at Pederson Point near Naknek on Bristol Bay, Alaska. Sometimes when fishing is strong, there's not enough time to pick all the fish from the net before the tide goes out, necessitating a long, muddy walk back to the beach with the catch. Image by Loren Holmes/Anchorage Daily News. United States, 2022.
 

On December 12, 2022, the Pulitzer Center, in partnership with Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times, presented a panel discussion titled “Boom and Bust in the Bering Sea: The Fate of Crab and Sockeye Salmon in a Warming World.” Crab and salmon are regional staples, but increasing climate volatility has made them less dependable. Seats in the audience filled quickly at the Anchorage Museum, in spite of school closures and poor driving conditions following back-to-back snow storms. Hundreds of people also joined online via Zoom.

The Seattle Times reporter Hal Bernton and Anchorage Daily News photojournalist Loren Holmes joined a panel of experts to discuss one of the world’s most productive marine ecosystems. These experts included Robert Foy, director of NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center; Robin Samuelsen, a chief on the Curyung Tribal Council and board member of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.; Katie Howard, a state of Alaska fishery biologist studying salmon’s fate in the oceans; Daniel Schindler, professor at the University of Washington, where he helps lead the Alaska Salmon Program; and Jamie Goen, executive director for Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.

More than 78.3 million sockeye surged home last summer, filling nets and spawning grounds. The spectacular display came as Alaska salmon runs of chum and Chinook species severely declined. Another devastating situation: The snow crab harvest has been canceled for the first time ever, and the king crab season was shut down for the second year in a row.

Holmes and Bernton embarked on their Pulitzer Center-supported projects, Into the Ice and Amid a Changing Climate, a Record Return of Alaska’s Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon in early 2022. Joining the crew on Pinnacle, a crabbing vessel, they documented the boat’s journey carving through ice floes and sea waves, yielding a scant harvest. “Alaska state biologists slashed this year’s harvest of snow crab to just 5.6 million pounds–down nearly 90% from 2021 levels,” wrote Bernton for the pair’s marquee Seattle Times feature, “A Crab Boat’s Quest for Snow Crab in a Bering Sea Upended by Climate Change.” Bernton and Holmes also reported on salmon set netting in Bristol Bay. Bernton’s research rigor and Holmes’ alternately intimate and epic visuals cohere a powerful package of stories.

View a recording of the event here.

SECTIONS
Bristol Bay
English

This collaborative journalistic effort looks into the record-shattering summer sockeye season on...

author #1 image author #2 image
Multiple Authors

RELATED INITIATIVES

a woman walks along a pier next to a docked boat

Initiative

Connected Coastlines

Connected Coastlines

RELATED ISSUES

A yellow elephant

Issue

Environment and Climate Change

Environment and Climate Change
Food

Issue

Food

Food
a navy and teal halftone illustration of a pair of fish overlaid on fish nets

Issue

Ocean

Ocean