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MESA Archives: Effects of Fishing Gear on Essential Fish Habitat

ABL Home
Marine Ecology & Stock Assessment
Effects of Gear Research
Coral Gardens Video
Habitat Documents
Spatial Patterns
Spatial Variation
Kodiak Research: Sea Whip
Corals in Alaska
Program Activities:
Data Sets
Reports & Activities
Red Tree Coral
Red Tree Coral.

(PLEASE NOTE: These web pages are for archival purposes only and are no longer maintained. For current information please refer to the MESA homepage.)

The 1996 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires assessment of the effects of fishing on essential fish habitat (EFH) and development of ways to minimize adverse impacts. Fishing gear that comes in contact with the seafloor can alter fish habitat. Although few studies have been conducted in Alaska waters, studies conducted elsewhere have generally shown that fishing activities can affect species composition and diversity, and reduce habitat complexity. Recovery after fishing depends on habitat type, the life history of individual species, and the natural disturbance regime.

Current studies conducted by the AFSC's Auke Bay Laboratory and Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering (RACE) Division focus on 1) understanding the direct effects of bottom trawling on seafloor habitat in Alaska waters, 2) the associations of fish and invertebrate species with habitat features that may be affected by fishing gear, 3) the evaluation of technology to determine gear effects and benthic habitat features, and 4) retrospective analyses of spatial and temporal patterns of bottom trawling. Most of the field-oriented studies (1-3 above) have focused on small geographic areas in specific habitat types.

Poster: Living Substrates in Alaska: Distribution, Abundance, and Species Association

Poster: Sea Whip Resiliency to Simulated Trawl Disturbance

picture of a trawl catch
Over 200 trawlers catch roughly 2 million metric tons of Alaska groundfish worth about $380 million (exvessel) annually. Some locations are repeatedly trawled because of high catch rates.

Research plans (.pdf file) focus on identifying the effects of
various gear types (trawls, longlines, pots, and dredges) on
fish habitat for a range of habitat types, mapping habitat, and
examining the associations between habitat features, fish
utilization, and geological processes. Long-term plans call
for studies that establish the connections between habitat
and fish production and population dynamics, and the
mitigation of effects through gear design.

Progress Reports for 2002, 2003, and 2004 summarize
research conducted during the year. Other progress
reports for May-June 2003and July-December 2003 cover
research on deep sea coral and sponge habitats in the
Aleutian Islands.

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