Kake, Alaska

The Tribe and community in Kake, Alaska are concerned about how the ocean waters and marine ecosystems surrounding their community are impacted by global climate change in conjunction with local stressors. Climate change can cause large-scale changes in sea surface temperature and the acidity of ocean water, while local stressors like pollution from vessel traffic can impact the amount of dissolved metals in the water. Both climate and local stressors have the potential to influence nutrient loading in ocean water.

Kake is situated in the heart of Southeast Alaska, at the confluence of three major bodies of water: Frederick Sound, Chatham Strait, and Keku Strait. Ocean waters around Kake directly affect Tribal and community health, food sovereignty, and food security of local residents through impacts on fish and shellfish.

Elizabeth Figus, ACCAP postdoctoral fellow, is carrying out a climate change case study using an Indigenous partnership co-production process. Elizabeth reached out to the Organized Village of Kake (a Federally recognized Tribe in Southeast Alaska), to ask if they might consider partnering on a co-production process around climate change resilience and adaptation. In January 2020, the Organized Village of Kake Council voted to become formal partners with ACCAP and extended an invitation to the Kake Tribal Corporation and the City of Kake to join the research partnership.

Figus made four visits to Kake between December 2019 and March 2020, but subsequent travel has been paused due to COVID-19. In May 2020, Organized Village of Kake, Kake Tribal Corporation, and the City of Kake attended a joint meeting (via Zoom) to finalize partnership principles and expectations and discuss project planning. The Kake Tribal Corporation Board and the Kake City Council subsequently voted to join the partnership.

This summer, there is an unprecedented low level of marine traffic, especially cruise ship traffic, due to cancellations and travel restrictions put in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Project partners are taking advantage of this low level of marine traffic to document baseline data about ocean waters around Kake. ACCAP, Organized Village of Kake, and Kake Tribal Corporation aim to document key climate and pollutant indicators (e.g., pH, salinity, temperature, nutrients, dissolved metals, fecal coliform) that may be affecting the cleanliness and safety of ocean waters and shellfish around Kake.