The Chignik Regional Aquaculture Association (CRAA) has been involved with the Fisheries Research Institute (FRI) for 40+ years. (FRI’s title changed to Alaska Salmon Program (ASP) in the late 1990s, but the old name is still commonly used in Alaska.) The funding CRAA provides helps FRI maintain important fisheries research in Chignik as well as educate future fisheries scientists.
The CRAA has gained tremendous knowledge from the ecological work that FRI and ASP researchers have conducted on two sockeye salmon runs that annually return to the Chignik River drainage on the South Alaska Peninsula. These runs are the life-blood of a major local salmon fishery. Further, they are culturally and economically essential to five coastal Chignik Native villages.
Chuck McCallum, the Chief Executive Officer of CRAA since its inception, has helped oversee the organization’s gifts to SAFS. Since that time, CRAA has been giving to the UW through the Chignik River Fund, which focuses on research in the Chignik River System.
When asked what prompted CRAA’s first gift to SAFS, Chuck replied, “At CRAA’s founding in 1990, we were aware of FRI’s history of high-quality fisheries work in the Chignik area. The local villagers told us that FRI scientists worked well with them and had their confidence.” He added, “At the time, the most helpful and influential FRI scientists at Chignik were Don Rogers (former professor) and Greg Ruggerone (PhD 1989).”
Through FRI’s field work and ensuing publications, CRAA has gained a better understanding of how Chignik’s two salmon runs interact and how the salmon are adjusting to several major natural watershed changes since the 1960s, and of course, to climate change. This information will aid in evaluating whether the Alaska Corps of Engineers, in cooperation with local villages and stakeholders, should go forward with restoration projects aimed at preventing further impact to the health and viability of these sockeye runs.
“The money CRAA has gifted to FRI has always been used wisely and efficiently to safeguard Chignik sockeye salmon habitat and to advance production and management efficiency. This aligns well with CRAA’s purpose, goals, and objectives. When we have non-allocative fisheries issues and questions, including future run strengths, watershed status, and sockeye rearing conditions, FRI staff is always there for us.”
—Chuck McCallum, Chief Executive Officer, CRAA
In addition to habitat evaluation studies in the Chignik River drainage, FRI has been assisting fishery Donor Profilemanagers at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. FRI has been providing cutting-edge real-time tools to help ensure that Chignik’s sockeye runs meet escapement targets, and surpluses are available to the commercial and subsistence fishers in season.
Chuck said that, “without reservation, FRI has always done first-class fishery science in Chignik. It is highly respected by the members of CRAA and the local Chignik villages.” He continued, “FRI is non-political and has always been direct and honest in addressing issues involving the Chignik sockeye salmon.”
Chuck commented, “All of our experiences with FRI have been worthwhile and professional.” He described Daniel Schindler (SAFS professor) as a “no-nonsense world-class salmon scientist.” Chuck said that Daniel shares his knowledge—not only with CRAA staff, but also with the fishing community. In season, Daniel comes across as tireless, and he is there for CRAA practically 24-7. He said, “Daniel has an innate ability to present complicated information and analyses in a manner that most everyone can grasp rather easily,” which Chuck said is important, especially at public meetings, including those with the Alaska Board of Fisheries.