Alaska’s Salmon and People: Establishing Baseline Data

Climate change, ocean acidification, and development pressures are just a few of the current threats to Alaska’s salmon and the people who depend on them. Impact investors are playing an increasingly larger role in supporting communities as they adapt to these global changes. In order to measure social and environmental impacts alongside financial returns of investments, one must develop accurate metrics that can be used to assess the additional impact of an investment and can be compared over time. Establishing baseline data of current conditions before investments occur is crucial to determining effectiveness of the investment. Nautilus Impact Investing is excited to be partnering with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara on the State of Alaska’s Salmon and People (SASAP) project ( SASAP aims to provide an up-to-date interdisciplinary perspective on Alaska’s salmon systems and the people who rely on them. Outcomes will include publicly available synthesized data – a baseline from which to measure impact for future investments.

How does salmon baseline data get translated into impact investing reports? The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) recognized the need for impact investors to speak a common language, and thus initiated IRIS, whose goal is to offer the public a transparent and credible catalog of metrics that can be used across the industry, providing accountability to impact measurement practices. The IRIS catalog includes broad categories of social and environmental impact objectives focused on: agriculture, education, energy, environment, financial services such as microfinance, health, housing/community development, land conservation, and water. IRIS provides clear metric definitions including a reporting format, metric type, citation, and detailed description.

Nautilus has recently been asked to provide advice to investors seeking to finance programs, people, business, infrastructure, and/or initiatives related to Alaska’s wild salmon. Unfortunately, it is difficult to readily access up-to-date information on Alaska’s salmon systems and thus challenging to apply metrics to current conditions. The SASAP project will engage leading university researchers, indigenous leaders, resource management agencies, industry representatives and other specialists to address this issue over the next two years.

The SASAP project specifically seeks to answer three core questions: what do we know, what do we not know, and how can we better integrate and share what we know about Alaska’s salmon system for better decision making and stakeholder engagement.

Three working groups have already commenced, focusing on a broad scale, cross-cutting analysis of 1) salmon distribution and habitat, 2) sociocultural and economic dimensions of salmon systems, and 3) current governance and management of salmon. A second round of proposals to explore pressures on salmon and options for response was opened in July (LINK).

Outputs from the SASAP project will be diverse and include academic papers and reports supported by openly accessible and synthesized data, archived models and analyses, and educational materials. These materials will be used by government, education, research, community, and commercial interests to strengthen their understanding of salmon systems and prioritize future research, monitoring, and management. Impact investors with interest in north pacific salmon systems will have an improved and accessible baseline of data to work from, making it easier to better understand the context for investments and establish a set of reporting metrics to measure social and environmental impact over time.