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Marine Ecology and Stock Assessment

Manned submersible Delta
Manned submersible Delta.
Adult sablefish
Adult sablefish.

The Auke Bay Laboratories’ Marine Ecology and Stock Assessment (MESA) Program is at the center of ABL's two key functions; stock assessment and habitat assessment. MESA supports the NMFS mission and especially NOAA’s Mission Goal: Protect, Restore, and Manage the use of Coastal and Ocean Resources Through an Ecosystem Approach to Management. In addition, MESA research supports the first objective under NOAA’s Climate Goal: Understand and predict the consequences of climate variability and change on marine ecosystems. A thorough description of current activities is found in the 2009 annual report to the Technical Subcommittee of the US- Canada Groundfish Committee (TSC). Primary MESA program functions are:

Stock assessment: Provides information needed by NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) to manage the Alaska groundfish resource. Scientists use advanced population modeling techniques to integrate biological observations and theoretical considerations into stock assessments that recommend annual groundfish quotas. These are in turn used by the NPFMC to manage fisheries within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Alaska. Active research to improve management recommendations includes the use of oceanographic, energetic, and satellite data to improve recruitment predictions, genetic stock structure of rockfish, and early life history studies on sablefish, pollock, sharks, rockfish, and salmon.

Northern rockfish in Aleutian corals
Northern rockfish in Aleutian corals.
Scientist at work
Scientist at work.

Surveys and field studies: Includes the annual longline survey and a wide variety of special at-sea studies. (Follow this link for the 2014 AFSC Longline Survey Calendar with dates and locations.) The Alaska longline survey assesses groundfish on the continental slope of Alaska. Stock status information is collected for a number of important groundfish species, particularly sablefish, rockfish, and grenadiers. Special projects and extensive tagging of sablefish, thornyhead rockfish, Greenland turbot, and lingcod are integral functions of the survey. The extensive tagging program on the longline survey has provided a wealth of life history information, including migration and exploitation rate estimates, and diel movement patterns. Collaborations with marine mammal scientists are focusing on fishery interactions with marine mammals, such as sperm whale longline depredation of sablefish.

Marine ecology research: Focuses on pelagic, benthic, and estuarine fish habitat; deep sea corals/sponges; and commercial and forage species, to improve stock assessment parameters and to protect and define essential fish habitat (EFH). Through the use of manned submersibles and towed cameras, MESA scientists have identified habitat associations of fish species, discovered extensive coral gardens in the Aleutian Islands, and provided insights into the catchability of trawl gear for groundfish species.High resolution multibeam sonar data have been processed to generate benthic habitat maps of fishing grounds in the Gulf of Alaska and the Aleutian distribution of cold water coral habitat. Analysis of near-shore and estuarine EFH provides information on juvenile groundfish and salmon. Future studies will contrast regions of the Gulf of Alaska and characterize a critical environmental window that fish must pass through during their first year of life as they cross from offshore spawning to nearshore settlement areas.

MESA Program Manager:
Phillip Rigby
Auke Bay Laboratories
Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries

Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute
17109 Pt Lena Loop Rd
Juneau, AK 99801
(907) 789–6653

News and Research Highlights

Longline Survey Calendar

2014 Calendar for AFSC Longline Survey

Includes dates and locations for the 2014 AFSC Longline Survey.

Longline Survey Data

AFSC Longline Survey Data

Summaries of the annual AFSC Longline Survey catch and abundance data are now easily accessible via the web. Learn more by clicking on the link above.

Longline Survey video

AFSC Longline Survey video

Watch this video to learn more about the daily activities and long term uses of the annual AFSC longline survey.

Featured Research, Publications, Posters, Reports, and Activities

  • SHOTWELL, S. K., D. H. HANSELMAN, and I. M. BELKIN. 2014. Toward biophysical synergy: Investigating advection along the Polar Front to identify factors influencing Alaska sablefish recruitment. Deep-Sea Res. II 107:40-53. 
  • EILER, J. H., M. M. MASUDA, T. R. SPENCER, R. J. DRISCOLL, and C. B. SCHRECK. 2014. Distribution, stock composition and timing, and tagging response of wild Chinook salmon returning to a large, free-flowing river basin. Trans. Am. Fish. Soc. 143:1476-1507.  
  • SIGLER, M. F., P. J. STABENO, L. B. EISNER, J. M. NAPP, and F. J. MUETER. 2014. Spring and Fall Phytoplankton Blooms in the Eastern Bering Sea During 1995–2011. AFSC Quarterly Report Feature (April-May-June 2014) 6 p. (.pdf, 1.85 MB).  Online.
  • MOORE, S. E., E. A. LOGERWELL, L. EISNER, E. V. FARLEY, Jr., L. A. HARWOOD, K. KULETZ, J. LOVVORN, J. R. MURPHY, and L. T. QUAKENBUSH. 2014. Marine fishes, birds and mammals as sentinels of ecosystem variability and reorganization in the Pacific Arctic region, p. 337-392. In J. M. Grebmeier and W. Maslowski (editors), The Pacific Arctic Region: Ecosystem Status and Trends in a Rapidly Changing Environment. Springer, Dordrecht. 
  • LEHNERT, H., and R. P. STONE. 2014. Aleutian Ancorinidae (Porifera, Astrophorida): Description of three new species from the genera Stelletta and Ancorina. Zootaxa 3826:341-355. 
  • STONE, R. P. 2014. The ecology of deep-sea coral and sponge habitats of the central Aleutian Islands of Alaska. NOAA Professional Paper NMFS 16, 52 p. 
  • WALLER, R. G., R. P. STONE, J. JOHNSTONE, and J. MONDRAGON. 2014. Sexual reproduction and seasonality of the Alaskan red tree coral, Primnoa pacifica. PLoS ONE 9(4): e90893. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090893.  Online.
  • LEHNERT, H., R. P. STONE, and D. DRUMM. 2014. Geodia starki sp. nov. (Porifera, Demospongiae, Astrophorida) from the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, USA. J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. UK 94:261-265. 
  • FEARNBACH, H., J. W. DURBAN, D. K. ELLIFRIT, J. M. WAITE, C. O. MATKIN, C. R. LUNSFORD, M. J. PETERSON, J. BARLOW, and P. R. WADE. 2014. Spatial and social connectivity of fish-eating “Resident” killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the northern North Pacific. Mar. Biol. 161:459-472. 
  • MATEO, I., and D. H. HANSELMAN. 2014. A comparison of statistical methods to standardize catch-per-unit-effort of the Alaska longline sablefish. U.S. Dep. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-AFSC-269, 71 p. (.pdf, 3 MB).  Online.
  • Were Record Pink Salmon Returns to Alaska in 2013 a Consequence of Favorable 2012 Ocean Conditions, and Can Forecasting Tools be Developed to Better Account for Survival at Sea?
    Conference:  Salmon Ocean Ecology Meeting, Santa Cruz, CA, Mar 2014
    (2014 poster, .pdf, 1.46 MB)   Online.

  • Changes in Jellyfish (Chrysaora melanaster) Biomass and Distribution in Reponse to Anaomalous Climate Shifts in the Bering Sea
    Conference:  North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) Open Science Meeting, Kohala Coast, Big Island, HI, Apr 2014
    (2014 poster, .pdf, 2.04 MB)   Online.


See the publications and poster databases for additional listings.


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