Food Safety/SecurityElise DeCola, Nuka Research & Planning Group, LLC
The Nuka Research team (Nuka Research and the Alaska Conservation Foundation's Aleutian Bering Sea Initiative) proposes to conduct the project Research Priorities for Food Safety and Security Following an Oil Spill to develop a report that will inform future research priorities related to food safety and security following an oil spill.
Many of the fish, shellfish, marine or land mammals, birds, eggs, and plants that are harvested for commercial, recreational, personal use, and subsistence may be affected by an oil spill. Alaskans residing in coastal communities depend on these resources for their income, nutrition, cultural expression, and/or general livelihoods. If these resources are contaminated or potentially contaminated, effects may include human health impacts due to consumption of contaminated food sources, economic losses if fisheries are closed or demand for Alaskan seafood declines due to lack of confidence in its quality, lack of access to critical food sources (and the corresponding need to replace them with other sources), or loss of culturally important activities or knowledge. The latter two concerns are particularly relevant to subsistence or personal use resources.
When an oil spill occurs, addressing concerns about the safety of food resources harvested or produced from Alaska’s terrestrial, freshwater, or marine environments is always a high priority. Decisions regarding when to close – and when and how to re-open – access to different resources are made under a framework of state and federal authorities, which were explored under a previous OSRI-funded study (Fletcher and Hall, 2018).
Our proposed approach includes: (1) a literature search to inform the development of outreach materials and frame our approach to engaging coastal communities and human health risk experts; (2) targeted community outreach and information gathering using respectful, community-centric, and culturally appropriate methods to conduct remote focus group meetings compliant with COVID-19 social distancing measures; (3) targeted outreach to subject matter experts in human health risks assessment modeling to identify key inputs needed to establish food safety thresholds and inform policy and management decisions; and (4) synthesizing the results of our research and information-gathering into a final report that can be used to guide future research priorities.