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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

  • DOYLE, M. J., C. DEBENHAM, S. J. BARBEAUX, T. W. BUCKLEY, J. L. PIRTLE, I. B. SPIES, W. T. STOCKHAUSEN, S. K. SHOTWELL, M. T. WILSON, and D. W. COOPER. 2018. A full life history synthesis of arrowtooth flounder ecology in the Gulf of Alaska: exposure and sensitivity to potential ecosystem change. J. Sea Res. 142:28-51.   Online.
  • PARK, H., N. TUAN, J. OH, Y. SON, M. HAMANN, R. STONE, M. KELLY, S. OH, and M. NA. 2018. Sesterterpenoid and Steroid Metabolites from a Deep-Water Alaska Sponge Inhibit Wnt/β-Catenin Signaling in Colon Cancer Cells. Mar. Drugs 16:297.   Online.
  • GOLDSMITH, D. B., C. A. KELLOGG, C. L. MORRISON, M. A. GRAY, R. P. STONE, R. G. WALLER, S. D. BROOKE, and S. W. ROSS. 2018. Comparison of microbiomes of cold-water corals Primnoa pacifica and Primnoa resedaeformis, with possible link between microbiome composition and host genotype. Sci. Rep. 8:12383.   Online.
  • RIDDELL, B. R., R. D. BRODEUR, A. V. BUGAEV, P. MORAN, J. M. MURPHY, J. A. ORSI, M. TRUDEL, L. A. WEITKAMP, B. K. WELLS, and A. C. WERTHEIMER. 2018. Ocean ecology of Chinook salmon. Pages 555-696 in R. J. Beamish, editor. The ocean ecology of Pacific salmon and trout. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland. 
  • LUNSFORD, C., C. RODGVELLER, and P. MALECHA. 2018. The 2017 longline survey of the Gulf of Alaska and eastern Bering Sea on the FV Ocean Prowler: Cruise Report OP-17-01. AFSC Processed Rep. 2018-01, 30 p. Alaska Fish. Sci. Cent., NOAA, Natl. Mar. Fish. Serv., 17109 Lena Point Loop Road, Juneau, AK 99801.  Online.
  • FARLEY, E.V., Jr., T.D. BEACHAM, and A.V. BUGAEV. 2018. Ocean ecology of sockeye salmon. Pages 319-389 in R.J. Beamish, editor. The ocean ecology of Pacific salmon and trout. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.  
  • RENNER, M., E. NELSON, J. WATSON, A. HAYNIE, A. POE, M. ROBARDS, and S. C. HESS. 2018. The risk of rodent introductions from shipwrecks to seabirds on Aleutian and Bering Sea islands. Biol. Invasions.   Online.
  • WATSON, J. T., and A. C. HAYNIE. 2018. Paths to resilience: Alaska pollock fleet uses multiple fishing strategies to buffer against environmental change in the Bering Sea. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci.   Online.
  • RODGVELLER, C. J., K. B. ECHAVE, P-J. F. HULSON, and K. M. COUTRÉ. 2018. Age-at-maturity and fecundity of female sablefish sampled in December of 2011 and 2015 in the Gulf of Alaska. U.S. Dep. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-AFSC-371, 31 p.  Online.
  • HURST, T. P., J. A. MILLER, N. FERM, R. A. HEINTZ, and E. V. FARLEY. 2018. Spatial variation in potential and realized growth of juvenile Pacific cod in the southeastern Bering Sea. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 590:171-185.   Online.
  • Exploration of Potential Early Life Mortality in Canadian-Origin Chinook Salmon Eggs due to Thiamine Deficiency
    Conference:  Comparative Nutrition Society 2016 Symposium, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Aug 2016
    (2016 poster, .pdf, 2.21 MB)   Online.

  • 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.


See the publications and poster databases for additional listings.


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