Management Strategy Evaluation for Salmon Fisheries in the Kuskokwim River

Salmonid Hatcheries and Harvest Management

Harvest Management
Project ID2102
Recovery Domains -
Start Date07/01/2021
End Date06/30/2023
Last Edited06/27/2022
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Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) is a process for directly engaging a diverse array of fishery participants to formalize their different views of the important components of ecosystems that affect fish abundance, harvest opportunity, and other values they may hold for the resource. A primary goal of the MSE process is to quantify and illustrate trade-offs produced from competing management strategies as a way to develop mutual understanding around one or more harvest strategies with a high probability of achieving sustainability of the resource while maximizing benefits to resource users. This process relies on computer simulations to quantify the potential outcomes of alternative harvest strategies while accounting for important uncertainties in biological and fishery management systems.

Specifically, the MSE process is comprised of two parallel components:

1. An iterative process with fishery participants, Traditional Knowledge holders, and resource managers to identify fishery objectives, alternative harvest strategies, and key uncertainties to incorporate in simulation models.

2. Computer simulations to quantify the likelihood that alternative harvest strategies meet the identified fishery objectives, given sources of natural variability in fish population dynamics, uncertainties in the future trajectory or productivity of fish populations and linkages with ecosystem processes, errors associated with how fish populations are observed, and imprecision in the management process. Application of MSE to fisheries is rapidly expanding, given the potential to reduce conflict and directly engage local, Traditional and Indigenous knowledge holders, whose preferences and perspectives directly inform the analysis of harvest alternatives. By bringing representatives of fishing and management communities together, the MSE process facilitates the sharing of knowledge and can improve transparency in, and understanding of, the fisheries management process and the collective understanding of the ecosystem. Through iterative collaboration between scientists, fishers, and fishery managers to develop simulation models that represent their different ways of knowing about the system, these co-produced simulation tools represent a consensus on the state of the biological system and future biological, climate, or ecosystem scenarios across which harvest strategies are tested. In Alaska, the MSE process represents a fundamentally different approach to engaging fishery participants and Traditional Knowledge (TK) holders in the salmon fishery management process, and one which we believe present an opportunity to enhance coordination and collaboration between fishery stakeholders and resource managers.

Project Benefit    

The Kuskokwim River is facing a time of transition with large observed changes in its salmon populations and the freshwater and marine ecosystems they inhabit. Home to one of the largest Chinook salmon stocks in the world, it supported vibrant commercial and subsistence fisheries until the 1990s when abundances declined to the point where only subsistence fisheries have persisted. Abrupt change in abundance and demographics of these stocks have fostered concern over the future sustainability of Kuskokwim salmon fisheries.

Scientific understanding of the reasons for changes in Kuskokwim Chinook salmon stocks remains weak in this remote and vast watershed, where biological and environmental data are scarce and highly uncertain. In particular, how future climate change will affect the stock productivity remains unknown. Concomitant declines in the ages and body sizes of spawners also remain largely unexplained but highlight changes to the demographic potential of this stock in terms of declining fecundity and egg size.

This combination of declining socio-economic performance in the fisheries, poor understanding of its causes, and cognizance of ongoing climate change has focused scrutiny on whether current management approaches provide the most effective basis for achieving sustainability. Further, it is unclear whether the diverse range of values held by the variety of stakeholders of this resource are satisfied equally by different management approaches. We propose to engage stakeholders, resource managers, and scientists in a formal collaborative assessment process known as Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) to co-develop a common understanding of trade-offs among alternative management strategies for satisfying diverse objectives, given the inevitable uncertainties about the future conditions in the ecosystem and how these will impact Kuskokwim River salmon populations.


Metric Completed Originally

Funding Details

Report Total:$254,702

Project Map


Kuskokwim River    

  • Worksite Identifier: Kuskokwim River
  • Start Date: 07/01/2021
  • End Date: 06/30/2023
Area Description
The Kuskokwim River is 702 miles (1,130 km) long, in Southwest Alaska in the United States. It is the ninth largest river in the United States. It is the ninth largest river in the United States by average discharge volume.

Location Information

  • Basin:
  • Subbasin:
  • Watershed:
  • Subwatershed:
  • State: Alaska
  • Recovery Domain:
  • Latitude: 60.0830556
  • Longitude: -162.3338889


    No ESU data was found for this worksite.




  • D.0 Salmonid Hatcheries and Harvest ManagementY (Y/N)
    •      . . D.0.a Hatchery and harvest mgmt. funding .00
    •      . . D.0.b
      Complement habitat restoration project
    •      . . D.0.c
      Project Identified in a plan or watershed assessment.
    •      . . D.3 Harvest Management ProjectY (Y/N)
      •      . . . . D.3.a Harvest Management Funding
      •      . . . . D.3.d.1 Fisheries management improvementsY (Y/N)
        •      . . . . . . D.3.d.2 Number of regulations
        •      . . . . . . D.3.d.3 Number of management actions
        •      . . . . . . D.3.d.4
          Record names of regulatory/management documents