Wednesday June 28, 2023


Eric Brewer’s life on the ocean began more than 70 years ago, when his parents started taking him out on the family’s troller. At 73, Brewer still fishes regularly. But he says a lot has changed in the waters of Southeast Alaska.

“I was out there, the last two weekends at the Derby weigh station, seeing things that are truly dystopian. The lack of birds, the lack of fish,” Brewer said. “Those of us who are out there on the water, we are seeing the changes. And I’ll tell you it’s pretty spooky.” 

Brewer started his own operation in 1978, trolling for coho and chinook salmon across Southeast Alaska and catching hundreds of fish a day. But today, the marine environment seems less abundant. Most species of Southeast salmon have had record low harvests in recent years, and the devastation from “the Blob” — a Pacific heat wave that caused massive die-offs of marine species — lingers. 

Scientists expect a future with warmer oceans and more marine heat waves. But there’s a lack of data to explain how climate change is shaping Southeast fisheries. Now, two new citizen science projects from Alaska Sea Grant and the Alaska Trollers Association will help longtime troll fishermen like Brewer take the lead to gather data about how the waters they depend on are changing. 

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