Symposia Descriptions

The WDAFS 2018 program will include a number of topical, timely symposia.

Got a paper you think would be a good contribution to one of these symposia? When submitting your abstract, select the appropriate symposium from the list to be considered. If your presentation or poster isn’t a good fit for one of the symposia below, please submit it as a contributed presentation or poster.



Symposium Title Evolving Methods for Specifying Anadromous Waters in Alaska: Tim Troll

Symposium Description Alaskans share a common desire to preserves our state’s abundant wild salmon. Alaska statutes Title 16 enshrines this desire by mandating the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) to “specify the various rivers, lakes, and streams or parts of them that are important for the spawning, rearing, or migration of anadromous fish,” and provide for their legal protection. To carry out this responsibility, ADF&G maintains a dataset, the Anadromous Waters Catalog, that specifies the anadromous waters protected. Waters are included in the catalog after a nomination is submitted that documents a spatially explicit, unambiguous field observation.  Documenting waters for the purpose of inclusion in ADF&G’s Anadromous Waters Catalog is often expensive and time-consuming due to the remoteness of most rivers, lakes and streams in the state. However Alaska is not alone in the challenge of defining fish distribution and habitat use, many entities maintain similar datasets and would benefit from improved or more easily obtained information on fish distribution. In this symposium we will examine the use of new or improved technologies such as environmental DNA analysis, remote photography, LiDAR and satellite imagery, advances in GIS, improved software products for hydrography and evolving modeling techniques for determining fish and habitat distribution, particularly in relation to migratory fish such as salmonids and remote habitats. Questions to be explored are the applicability, accuracy and reliability of different methods, best practices and protocols, relative cost and effort as well as practical use in management, protection and conservation efforts.


Making Fish Habitat Great Again: Conservation of habitats and connected stream networks in the midst of resource development and urban growth: Matthew Varner

Symposium Description This symposium will focus on three areas: stream and streambank restoration, fish passage, and effectiveness monitoring. This symposium could also potentially include a panel discussion about restoration and mitigation effectiveness monitoring and consistency across Alaska and the West. With resource development and population expansion in the West, including Alaska, aquatic habitats are under increased threat.  In Alaska, thousands of miles of streams on public lands will likely be opened to new instream mineral development (e.g., placer mining) in the foreseeable future. Oil and gas development continues to grow in Alaska as well as the West. Population growth and increased use of public lands are resulting in expanded infrastructure and localized impacts to high value fisheries. Minimizing and mitigating human impacts at various scales and intensities on aquatic habitats is an enormous challenge and has often had limited success, especially in the Arctic. The latest science and coordinated monitoring is helping to address these challenges and create new opportunities for the future of fisheries conservation.


Turning the Tide: Enhancing Diversity and Inclusion in the Fisheries Profession: Cheyenne Owens

Symposium Description The United States has become an increasingly diverse nation, with currently 51 percent of the population being women and more than half of all Americans projected to belong to a minority group by 2044 (US Census Bureau). With these shifting demographics, one of the challenges for the fisheries profession has been reflecting the changing face of America. As part of the strategic plan for 2015-2019, the American Fisheries Society aims to “increase the disciplinary, gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity and engagement of its members as a vital means to maintain relevancy and respond to the challenges facing fisheries science and management”.   The goal of this symposium is to be a platform for addressing the challenges toward diversity and inclusion in fisheries and highlighting successful efforts toward promoting diversity and inclusion in our profession. Topics may include agency initiatives, youth outreach programs, and introducing the new WDAFS Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The symposium will end with a town hall style discussion geared toward “fishing for solutions” we can use at the division, chapter, and member levels to foster a more inclusive environment for members and provide opportunities for the next generation of fisheries professionals.


Salmon Enhancement in the last frontier: Joel Markis

Symposium Description An initial overview of Salmon Enhancement efforts in Alaska with focus on how enhancement operations play into statewide salmon fisheries. General, Biologic, Genetic, and Economic overviews will be followed by directed research projects focused on some of the challenges associated with changing fisheries and the opportunities they may present.


Understanding the Drivers of Chinook Salmon Decline in Western Alaska & Exploring New Approaches to Sustainable Salmon Management & Stakeholder Engagement: Joseph Spaeder

Symposium Description Some of the world’s largest populations of Chinook salmon spawn in the rivers of western Alaska. Over the past decade, Chinook salmon returning to the Yukon, Kuskokwim and other rivers of this region have shown disastrous declines in abundance. These declines have resulted in years of closed commercial fisheries, unmet escapement targets, and great hardship for subsistence dependent communities. Strategic investments in scientific research and stakeholder engagement over the past decade have focused on understanding the causes of these declines, and exploring new ways to evaluate management strategies in these vast and remote rivers. This symposium will feature two types of presentations: 1) The results of research to address key hypotheses explaining the decline in Chinook salmon across this region, and 2) New approaches to management and stakeholder engagement including: participatory modeling, structured decision making, stakeholder capacity building, local ecological knowledge and community-based monitoring. The symposium will showcase the newest science relevant to understanding Chinook salmon dynamics in western Alaska, providing explicit links to management of fishery resources within the region, but also valuable insights relevant to fishery management in complex ecosystems elsewhere.


Beyond the dartboard: methods and recommendations for salmon forecasts: Curry J. Cunningham and Rich Brenner

Symposium Description Pre-season and inseason salmon run size and run timing forecasts are a topic of great interest to resource stakeholders and fisheries managers, as they are critical to the efficient and sustainable prosecution of commercial, subsistence, and recreational fisheries in the North Pacific. Salmon forecasts are constructed using data and personnel from multiple state, federal, tribal, university, nonprofit, and industry organizations, using a wide variety of statistical methods. Broadly, salmon forecasting methods can be divided into “naive” and “informed” types; whereby naive forecasts rely solely on historical run size or harvest as predictors, and informed forecasts utilize one or more biological or environmental correlates to inform prediction. Methods for generating forecast estimates and evaluating forecast performance vary by region depending upon available data, resources, and other factors. We will provide a forum for presenting historical and emerging statistical methods for salmon forecasting, as well as retrospective analyses of forecast performance. We will encourage presenters to provide advice and analysis resources to fisheries managers, researchers, students, and biometricians with the objectives of improving salmon forecasting methods and stimulating the exchange of ideas across regions and organizations.


Hooked: creative solutions to engage the public in fish conservation and fisheries management: Katrina Liebich

Symposium Description Most (if not all) of the changes and challenges facing fisheries today are driven by people. With this comes the opportunity for people to be part of the solution. Our challenge is motivating a broad cross-section of society to care about and act on behalf of fish and their habitats. Fish are virtually invisible to most people, living complex lives beneath the surface of vast expanses of water where their only contact with humans is on the hooks or in nets deployed by a relative few. This symposium brings together a diverse array of fisheries professionals using innovative approaches that can help make fish more visible, “hook” non-traditional audiences on fish, and motivate different segments of society to engage in fisheries conservation and management.


Water Quality in Fisheries: Keeping an Eye on a Vital Resource: Paul Kusnierz

Symposium Description Water quality is a key component in the study and management of fish. However, it is not always on the forefront of the fisheries professional’s brain. Understanding the water quality dynamics of a waterbody can shape the way we interpret interactions between fish and their physical habitat and help establish limitations on management actions. As such, the Water Quality Section of the American Fisheries Society would like to sponsor a symposium that highlights the challenges water quality can pose to fisheries professionals. Through this symposium we seek to demonstrate how understanding water quality can lead to better fisheries management; both for recreational and restoration purposes. For this symposium we are seeking presentations that specifically address water quality as a challenge to answering fisheries biology and management questions. We hope that having this symposium will aid fisheries professionals in their day to day work and show how considering water quality can open opportunities for success.


The State of Alaska’s Salmon and People: Results from a large interdisciplinary research initiative:

Peter Westley

Symposium Description The State of Alaska’s Salmon and People program is a large multi-year interdisciplinary initiative supported by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, which aimed to provide an updated understanding of the complex, coupled social-natural system embodied by Alaska salmon. This symposium will draw from participants across eight working groups to share emergent results with the broader fisheries community and stakeholders. Talks will highlight the themes of what is known and not known about the Alaska salmon system and are encouraged to offer salient recommendations for future needed data and research. This symposium squarely aligns with the core themes of the 2018 WDAFS annual meeting by highlighting the challenges of a changing natural and social landscape of Alaska salmon, while also revealing opportunities for continued sustainability in the 21st century.


Fishing for solutions to economically and ecologically important salmonid diseases: Eric Fetherman

Symposium Description Parasitic and bacterial diseases have caused large economic and ecological losses in wild and hatchery salmonid populations worldwide.  Whirling disease (WD) caused major declines in wild rainbow trout fisheries in the intermountain west and proliferative kidney disease (PKD) is responsible for extensive wild fish kills.  Bacterial coldwater disease (BCWD) and bacterial kidney disease (BKD) are both economically important diseases in hatchery salmonid populations, causing major losses due to infection and depopulation of hatchery stocks.  Management of WD has focused on breaking the parasite life cycle using resistant hosts and the manipulation of host habitats, as well as exploring the molecular immunology of the host pathogen interaction.  Current research on PKD is focused on exploring the potential similarity in outbreaks between populations in North America and Europe, and the development of a probe-based assay for fish tissue and eDNA samples to detect the pathogen in the wild.  Current solutions to BCWD and BKD include the use of vaccinations, the development of BCWD resistant rainbow trout, and the evaluation of hatchery practices to prevent disease transmission.  This symposium will explore the challenges and opportunities associated with controlling and minimizing losses from exposure to these diseases in both hatchery and wild salmonid populations.


Keeping the west wild by minimizing the impacts of aquatic invasive species: Aaron Martin

Symposium Description Aquatic invasive species (AIS) have significant ecological, economic, and socio-cultural impacts in the regions they are introduced. Conserving and restoring ecosystems and the industries and cultures that depend on the native species/ecosystems can be challenging and contentious due to project logistics and scope as well as differing views on what actions should occur and what AIS to prioritize resources towards. However, implementing thorough preventative practices and a comprehensive early detection and rapid response program at local and regional scales can minimize the complexity and cost of AIS management. In this symposium, we will highlight efforts (with emphasis on the partnerships that make them effective) that are underway across the western United States to prevent and or minimize the impacts of AIS in order to keep our native ecosystems sustainable and cultures and industries that rely on these ecosystems functioning. Potential presentation topics may include (but are not limited to): emerging technologies in prevention and monitoring; habitat suitability and vector analyses; prevention and early detection efforts; control and eradication efforts; awareness/education campaigns; lessons learned; and emerging issues (likely a reduced talked length).


Reweaving the fabric of nature: changing food webs and challenges for freshwater fisheries

management: Ryan Bellmore

Symposium Description Food webs are self-organizing features of ecosystems that adapt to human manipulation of the environment. These evolving food webs can have unique structures and dynamics that respond differently to management actions relative to un-manipulated webs. The spread of invasive species, for instance, has restructured many freshwater food webs resulting in novel ecological interactions and dramatic declines in native fishes. Although invasive species are a conspicuous agent of change, almost all environmental changes can modify food webs and associated fish populations. In freshwater ecosystems, changes to habitat structure, riparian forests, nutrient regimes, hydrology, water temperature and the timing/magnitude of subsides can all substantially alter food webs. These evolving food webs influence fish by changing the strength of top-down predation, bottom-up prey availability, and competition for shared resources. Reciprocally, changing environmental conditions also affect how fishes interact with the surrounding food web by directly modifying fish phenology, behavior, and bioenergetics. Understanding how freshwater ecosystems will respond to management actions—as well as future environmental changes—will require accounting for this “reweaving” of nature’s fabric. This session brings together researchers and managers that are contending with these altered conditions.


Spatial-stream-network (SSN) models: Recent technical advances and a diversifying set of applications: Dan Isaak

Symposium Description Spatial-stream-network models are a new type of geostatistical model based on covariance structures for network topology. Although the statistical theory and software for SSNs were developed only in the last decade, the adoption and use of the models is growing rapidly because of their predictive accuracy, novel insights, and ability to develop information from many types of stream data (water chemistries, habitat conditions, biological attributes) and large datasets with spatial autocorrelation. Applications include stream temperature modeling for climate change, water quality and nutrient analyses, sampling design optimization, species distribution and fish abundance models, development of network isoscapes, and genetic biodiversity mapping. As existing datasets are compiled into ever larger databases and new data accumulate from growing sensor networks and environmental DNA surveys, SSN model applications and strengths will continue to grow. Key to modeling and organizing those datasets efficiently are computational advances, space-time applications, and the National Hydrography Dataset, which is being revised and updated for Alaska and the conterminous U.S. to higher resolutions. This symposium will highlight new SSN research, technical advances, and applications to describe the current state of knowledge and stimulate discussions about future development.


Challenges and Advances in the Conservation of Western Native Trout: Julie Meka Carter

Symposium Description The conservation of native trout takes a unified, collaborative effort among multiple state, federal, Tribal, local agencies, private organizations, landowners, and the public to be successful. Conservation for many of the species is advancing, yet challenges remain and there is more work to be done. This symposium will be hosted by the Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) and focus on the projects, conservation approaches, and progress made in the areas of habitat degradation and protection, fish passage, fish isolation, nonnative fish removal, genetic assessments, status assessments, climate change, wildfire, and other factors that may impact native trout in the west. There are 21 species of native trout that are the focal species of WNTI, a Fish Habitat Partnership and an organization within the Western of Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. We welcome presentations on the following species: Alaska Kokanee, Alaskan Lake Trout, Alaskan Fluvial Rainbow Trout, Apache Trout, Arctic Char, Arctic Grayling, Bonneville Cutthroat Trout, Bull Trout, California Golden Trout, Coastal Cutthroat Trout, Colorado River Cutthroat Trout, Dolly Varden, Gila Trout, Greenback Cutthroat Trout, Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, Little Kern Golden Trout, Paiute Cutthroat Trout, Interior Redband Trout, Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout, Westslope Cutthroat Trout, and Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout.


Marine-derived nutrients in coastal watersheds: what is myth and what is reality?: Daniel Schindler

Symposium Description A compelling narrative exists about the ecological importance of marine-derived nutrients and energy (MDN) in coastal watersheds. From their roles as prey for terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, to their importance as subsidies of productivity-limiting nutrients, a complex story is often told about how broadly important salmon are to freshwater and riparian ecosystems. Research quantifying the ecological roles of salmon has proliferated over the last two decades, yet there remains distinct confusion in the literature about how important MDN are to the productivity and dynamics of coastal watersheds and to salmon populations. We need to ask when, where, how, and to whom MDN are important. At present there is little scientific agreement about the answers to these questions, though the story about salmon as universally important to coastal ecosystems persists in the public and conservation communities. The purpose of this symposium is to take stock of what we know and don’t know about the importance of MDN in coastal watersheds. Which parts of the MDN narrative are supported by data? What information is most important for management and conservation? What are the remaining uncertainties? Which parts of the salmon-nutrient narrative need rewriting?


Marine mammal-fishery interactions: conflicts, management, and innovative solutions: Julie Scheurer

Symposium Description One of the leading causes of anthropogenic injury and mortality for many marine mammal species is interactions with commercial fishing operations. Fisheries may have direct impacts on marine mammals such as intentional or unintentional injury, harassment, or even death. Fisheries may indirectly impact marine mammals by reducing the availability of their prey or disturbing important habitats. Likewise, marine mammals impact commercial fisheries in a variety of ways including depredation, interference, and by damaging fishing gear. In this symposium, speakers will provide an overview of the regulations governing fishery and marine mammal interactions; explain the types of interactions occurring in the Western Region; identify data gaps, human dimensions, and economic considerations related to mitigating and managing these interactions; and offer innovative approaches to avoid, deter, and minimize marine mammal and fisheries interactions in the future.


Ghosts of Fishes Past, Present, and Future: Confronting Data-Limited Stocks in a Changing Arctic: Trent M. Sutton

Symposium Description Climate change, coupled with anthropogenic development, has impacted the structure and function of high-latitude ecosystems, with the status and response largely unknown for many fish species. As a result, improving our knowledge on the distribution, abundance, and life-history dynamics of fishes for which we have a limited understanding and predicting their potential response(s) to change in the Alaskan Arctic is essential for maintaining sustainable fisheries and ecosystem integrity. In this symposium, we will explore past, current, and future opportunities to improve our understanding of data-limited fish stocks through: (1) retrospective analysis of data-sparse fish stocks using conventional data and analytical tools; (2) current and ongoing examinations and assessments of fish population status in data-limited situations; and (3) potential responses and outcomes of fish stocks to varying change scenarios in the Alaskan Arctic. An additional goal of this symposium is to bring together researchers from industry, natural resource agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions that have been involved in Arctic-based fisheries research in Alaska involving fish species in which there is limited data and/or understanding.


Pink and Chum Symposia: Pete Rand

Pink and Chum Symposia


Western Native Fishes: Nate Cathcart

Symposium Description Many native fish and aquatic species are investigated within contexts of changing environments and challenging landscapes through more recent opportunities   provided by newer technology (i.e., tags, SONAR, eDNA) or expanding perspectives (i.e., nongame species management, contemporary invasions, taxonomic revision). In keeping with the theme of the 2018 annual meeting of the Western Division of the American Fisheries Society (“Change, challenge, and opportunities in fisheries”) this symposium will highlight relevant studies exploring the ecology and management of species from the desert southwest to Arctic Alaska (and anywhere else within the Western Division). We welcome various presentations from those illustrating case studies highlighting how processes affect decision making of native fishes to experimental designs that innovate our understanding of native fishes in the contemporary world. This fourth annual symposium will consider topics relating to all native fishes.


Challenge, Change and Opportunities for Marine Fisheries: Gordon Kruse and Vaness von Biela

Symposium Description Marine fish and invertebrates support economically valuable commercial and recreational fisheries in addition to serving as important subsistence resources that provide food security for residents of coastal communities. Human stressors and climate change and variability, such as the recent 2013-2016 marine heat wave in the Northeast Pacific, cause significant changes in marine ecosystems that include changes in fish distribution, status, and productivity. Such changes are often difficult to predict and pose major challenges to fishery managers who strive to conserve fishery resources while maintaining sustainable yields. This challenge is further complicated by the need to take an ecosystem-based management approach that considers the interactions of fish and fisheries with other ecosystem components, including habitat, bycatch species, interactions with seabirds and marine mammals, and others factors. This symposium seeks contributions that identify challenges, opportunities, and creative solutions for marine fish and invertebrate fisheries that are undergoing change.


Contributed Papers

Lisa Stuby (contact)