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MESA: Sablefish Stock Structure

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Distribution of juvenile sablefish in the 1990s as sampled by the trawl survey
Distribution of juvenile sablefish in the 1990s as sampled by the trawl survey.

Sablefish form two populations based on differences in growth rate, size at maturity, and tagging studies. A northern population inhabits Alaska and northern British Columbia waters while a southern population inhabits southern British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California waters. Mixing of the two populations occurs off southwest Vancouver Island and northwest Washington.

Sablefish are assessed as a single population in Federal waters off Alaska because northern sablefish are highly migratory for at least part of their life. Sablefish are managed by discrete regions to distribute exploitation throughout their wide geographical range. There are four management areas in the Gulf of Alaska: Western, Central, West Yakutat, and East Yakutat/Southeast Outside (SEO) and two management areas in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI): the eastern Bering Sea (EBS) and the Aleutian Islands region.

Because juveniles appear to migrate all throughout Alaskan waters (see map above), little fine-scale genetic structure is expected. However, some genetic work is currently underway to test this hypothesis.

Dana Hanselman
Auke Bay Laboratories
Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries

Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute
17109 Pt Lena Loop Rd
Juneau AK 99801

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