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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 most recent 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

2015 Calendar for AFSC Longline Survey

Includes dates and locations for the 2015 AFSC Longline Survey.

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

  • STONE, R. P., M. M. MASUDA, and J. F. KARINEN. 2015. Assessing the ecological importance of red tree coral thickets in the eastern Gulf of Alaska. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 72:900-915. 
  • DAWSON, M., K. CIECIEL, M. DECKER, G. HAYS, C. LUCAS, and K. PITT. 2015. Population-level perspectives on global change: Genetic and demographic analyses indicate various scales, timing, and causes of scyphozoan jellyfish blooms. Biol. Invasions 17:851-867. 
  • DEROBA, J. J., D. S. BUTTERWORTH, R. D. METHOT, J. A. A. De OLIVEIRA, C. FERNANDEZ, A. NIELSEN, S. X. CADRIN, M. DICKEY-COLLAS, C. M. LEGAULT, J. IANELLI, J. L. VALERO, C. L. NEEDLE, J. M. O'MALLEY, Y.-J. CHANG, G. G. THOMPSON, C. CANALES, D. P. SWAIN, D. C. M. MILLER, N. T. HINTZEN, M. BERTIGNAC, L. IBAIBARRIAGA, A. SILVA, A. MURTA, L. T. KELL, C. L. De MOOR, A. M. PARMA, C. M. DICHMONT, V. R. RESTREPO, Y. YE, E. JARDIM, P. D. SPENCER, D. H. HANSELMAN, J. BLAYLOCK, M. MOOD, and P.-J. F. HULSON. 2015. Simulation testing the robustness of stock assessment models to error: Some results from the ICES strategic initiative on stock assessment methods. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 72:19-30. 
  • HURST, T. P., D. W. COOPER, J. T. DUFFY-ANDERSON, and E. V. FARLEY. 2015. Contrasting coastal and shelf nursery habitats of Pacific cod in the southeastern Bering Sea. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 72:515-527. 
  • SIGLER, M. F., P. J. STABENO, L. B. EISNER, J. M. NAPP, and F. J. MUETER. 2014. Spring and fall phytoplankton blooms in a productive subarctic ecosystem, the eastern Bering Sea, during 1995-2011. Deep-Sea Res. II 109:71-83. 
  • 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. 
  • The Use of Ecosystem Metrics for Pre-season Forecasts of Pink Salmon Harvest in Southeast Alaska: What Have We Learned?
    Conference:  Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Anchorage, AK, Jan 2015
    (2015 poster, .pdf, 1.79 MB)   Online.

  • Spatial Distribution, Food Habits, and Energetics of Age-0 Walleye Pollock and Pacific Cod During Summer in the Eastern and Central Gulf of Alaska
    Conference:  Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Anchorage, AK, Jan 2015
    (2015 poster, .pdf, 1.32 MB)   Online.


See the publications and poster databases for additional listings.


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