HAMC: Arctic Nearshore Studies
Beach seining near Barrow, Alaska
The Arctic is home to many species of fish, seabirds, and marine mammals. Most of the Arctic is pristine, but all of it is vulnerable to increasing stress from shoreline development and changing environmental perturbations. Existing threats to the Arctic environment include increased demand for oil and gas exploration and development, and loss of sea ice from climate change. Oil companies bid $2.7 billion dollars in February 2008 for drilling rights to an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil and 77 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Chukchi Sea. The present extent of Arctic sea ice is the second lowest on record, further reinforcing a long-term state of decline.
Current information is needed on Arctic fish distribution and habitat use, food webs, and species at risk in order to make informed management decisions regarding potential effects from offshore oil exploration and global climate change. This is especially true for shallow-water nearshore areas, often ignored in fisheries surveys. In response to this need, scientists from the Auke Bay Laboratories have been examining nearshore fish assemblages in the Arctic since 2004:
- 2004 to 2006—In collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, research focused on identifying nearshore fish communities near Barrow, Alaska, that may be disturbed by the addition or removal of beach sediments. Beaches adjacent to Barrow are eroding rapidly due to loss of sea ice and longer periods of open water. The survey area extended about 50 km west of Barrow (Chukchi Sea) to about 35 km east of Barrow (Cooper Island, Beaufort Sea). Fish were sampled at 25 sites with a beach seine, and a total of 2,564 fish were captured.
- 2007 to present—NOAA Fisheries Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) funds and the North Slope Borough have supported the continuation of Arctic studies to help establish a baseline of nearshore fish assemblages near Barrow. Fish are collected with a beach seine and a bottom trawl, and environmental data including water temperature and salinity are recorded annually during summer at eight baseline sites in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Over 20 fish species have been identified to date; the two most abundant are capelin (Mallotus villosus) and Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida). All catch data is included in the Nearshore Fish Atlas of Alaska website.
Key Publications & Posters to this Research
Johnson, S.W. and J.F. Thedinga. 2007. Fish Assemblages near Barrow, Alaska August 2004-2006. Final report to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District.
Arctic Nearshore Fishes: Establishing a Baseline in a Dynamic Environment
S. W. JOHNSON, J. F. THEDINGA, A. D. NEFF. Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Anchorage, AK, Jan 2009.
(2009 poster, .pdf, 4.1MB) Online.
Nearshore Fish Atlas of Alaska
Arctic Fisheries Management in Alaska
Scott Johnson, (907) 789-6063, Scott.Johnson@noaa.gov
John Thedinga, (907) 789-6025, John.Thedinga@noaa.gov
Auke Bay Laboratories
Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries
Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute
17109 Pt Lena Loop Rd
Juneau AK 99801