HEPR: Loss of Sea Ice
Climate change is causing loss of sea ice in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Addressing ecosystem-related shifts is critical for fisheries management, because nationally important Bering Sea commercial fisheries (>40% US catch) are located primarily within the southeastern Bering Sea, and for successful co-management of marine mammals, which at least thirty Alaska Native communities depend on.
Groundfish and crab of the entire eastern Bering Sea shelf were surveyed in 2010, the first time in 20 years that the northern part (red oval) had been surveyed (the southeastern part is surveyed annually). The 2010 addition of northern Bering Sea sampling together with existing standard surveys (surface trawl/acoustic [BASIS], acoustic [MACE]), produced the most comprehensive survey of ocean conditions, plankton, fish and crab of the eastern Bering Sea shelf to date. These surveys also provide abundance and distribution information for some fish and crab species that are prey of ice seals.
Aerial abundance surveys of ice seals are planned for 2012-14. Two synoptic aerial abundance surveys are planned for ribbon, spotted and bearded seals in the Bering Sea and in the Sea of Okhotsk in 2012 and 2013. A survey for ringed seals in the Beaufort, Chukchi and northern Bering Sea is planned for 2014. Ice seal surveys previously were conducted in limited areas of the Bering Sea in 2007 and 2008.
A survey for oceanography, plankton, demersal and pelagic fish of the eastern Chukchi Sea shelf in 2012 is planned by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This survey will be funded by NOAA and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE). We expect abundance measurements for snow crab, Arctic cod and capelin and sculpin, eelpout and Pacific salmon species. This is the first standard, shelf-wide survey in 20 (northern part) and 35 (southern part) years.
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