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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 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

  • ERSHOVA, E. A., R. R. HOPCROFT, K. N. KOSOBOKOVA, K. MATSUNO, R. J. NELSON, A. YAMAGUCHI, and L. B. EISNER. 2015. Long-term changes in summer zooplankton communities of the western Chukchi Sea, 1945–2012. Oceanography 28:100–115. DOI: 10.5670/oceanog.2015.60  
  • LEHNERT, H., and R. P. STONE. 2015. New species of sponges (Porifera, Demospongiae) from the Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska. Zootaxa 4033:451-483. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4033.4.1 
  • GRAY, A. K., C. J. RODGVELLER, and C. R. LUNSFORD. 2015. Evidence of multiple paternity in quillback rockfish (Sebastes maliger). U.S. Dep. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-AFSC-303, 25 p. (.pdf, 1.14 MB).  Online.
  • YASUMIISHI, E. M., S. K. SHOTWELL, D. H. HANSELMAN, J. A. ORSI, and E. A. FERGUSSON. 2015. Using salmon survey and commercial fishery data to index nearshore rearing conditions and recruitment of Alaskan sablefish. Mar. Coastal Fish. 7:316-324. DOI: 10.1080/19425120.2015.1047070. (.pdf, 314 KB, Open Access).  Online.
  • NICHOL, D. G., and D. A. SOMERTON. 2015. Seasonal migrations of morphometrically mature male snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) in the eastern Bering Sea in relation to mating dynamics. Fish. Bull., U.S. 113:313-326. DOI: 10.7755/FB.113.3.7. (.pdf, 4.32 MB).  Online.
  • YASUMIISHI, E. M., K. R. CRIDDLE, N. HILLGRUBER, F. J. MUETER, and J. H. HELLE. 2015. Chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) growth and temperature indices as indicators of the year–class strength of age-1 walleye pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus) in the eastern Bering Sea. Fish. Oceanogr. 24:242-256. DOI: 10.1111/fog.12108. 
  • EILER, J. H., A. N. EVANS, and C. B. SCHRECK. 2015. Migratory patterns of wild Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha returning to a large, free-flowing river basin. PLoS ONE 10:e0123127. (.html, open access)  Online.
  • SIGLER, M. F., C. N. ROOPER, G. R. HOFF, R. P. STONE, R. A. McCONNAUGHEY, and T. K. WILDERBUER. 2015. Faunal features of submarine canyons on the eastern Bering Sea slope. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 526:21-40. DOI: 10.3354/meps11201. 
  • 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. 
  • Spawning Omission and the Productivity Deepwater Rockfish in the North Pacific Ocean
    Conference:  American Fisheries Society, 145th Annual Meeting, Portland, OR, Aug 2015
    (2015 poster, .pdf, 3.75 MB)   Online.

  • Chinook salmon first year production indicators from ocean monitoring in Southeast Alaska
    Conference:  NPAFC International Symposium on Pacific Salmon and Steelhead Production in a Changing Climate…, Kobe, Japan, May 2015
    (2015 poster, .pdf, 1.02 MB)   Online.


See the publications and poster databases for additional listings.


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