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Resource Ecology and Ecosystem Modeling Program

Fish Stomach Collection and Lab Analysis

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Summer 2014
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During the third quarter of 2014, the stomach contents of 5,066 groundfish were analyzed in the Resource Ecology and Ecosystem Modeling (REEM) program’s food habits laboratory and out at sea. Data were error-checked and loaded into the AFSC’s Groundfish Food Habits database, resulting in 8,677 added records. The majority of the samples analyzed during the quarter were core predator species – walleye pollock, Pacific cod, arrowtooth flounder, Pacific halibut, Atka mackerel, and Pacific ocean perch – analyzed at sea during the AFSC’s groundfish trawl survey in the Aleutian Islands. The stomach contents of 32 species from the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas were analyzed in the laboratory. Stomach samples from core predator species were collected in the eastern Bering Sea during the groundfish trawl survey (5,817) and by fisheries observers during commercial fishing operations (722).

By Troy Buckley, Geoff Lang, Mei-Sun Yang, Richard Hibpshman,
Kimberly Sawyer, Caroline Robinson and Sean Rohan

Ecosystem Considerations

Stephani Zador completed the first public version of the 2014-15 Ecosystems Considerations for the Ground Stock Assessment and Fisheries Evaluation Report (SAFE) and presented results to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council’s Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, Gulf of Alaska, and Crab Plan Teams in September.  Thirty-one indicator updates were received and published in this report. North Pacific climate conditions were reported along with biological indicators for the eastern Bering Sea (EBS) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA).

The North Pacific showed a weak Aleutian low last winter, with positive sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies south of Alaska and a transition of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) to positive. A weak to moderate El Niño is also forecast. A “blob” of warm water in the North Pacific led to the warmest SST anomalies for the GOA on record. The Transition Zone Chlorophyll Front was 240km north of normal, which impacts the distribution of subarctic animals. However, conditions were also anomalously upwelling-favorable in the GOA, which kept the coasts of the GOA from experiencing the higher temperatures.

During the EBS groundfish survey, average bottom and surface temperatures were warmer than average. A wind-drift model shows unfavorable indications for flatfish recruitment from 2012 to 2014, although that relationship has broken down a bit in recent years. Euphausiid abundance was lower in 2014 (similar to 2004 levels). A new regime shift indicator shows the salmon indicator shifting to negative in 2009.

Zooplankton in Southeast Alaska and Icy Bay were anomalously low throughout the summer in 2013. Continuous Plankton Recorders in 2013 yielded smaller copepods, larger mesozooplanton biomass, and greater abundance of large diatoms in warm waters in the Alaskan Gulf. Small mesh trawl surveys along the south coast of the Alaska Peninsula and near Kodiak Island resulted in low catches of herring and pink salmon; juvenile pollock were found in the greatest numbers seen since 1979. Herring biomass peaked in 2011 and has declined since. The strong 2013 year-class of pink salmon indicates a projected increase in sablefish numbers. The fish stock sustainability index shows that no stocks are currently subject to overfishing in the GOA or EBS. For non-target catch, jellyfish show alternating high and low years; seabird bycatch has declined from historic levels and has leveled off to much lower levels in the past 5 years. Total discards in the pollock trawl fisheries appear to be decreasing as well.

By Kerim Aydin and Stephani Zador

Seabird Bycatch Monitoring

In September 2014, there was an incidental take of an endangered short-tailed albatross  in the hook-and-line groundfish fishery of the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, and the take of a second unidentified albatross in the same haul, the identity of which will be evaluated after the fishery observer debriefing. The last three documented short-tailed albatross takes in Alaska were in August 2010, September 2010, and October 2011. Shannon Fitzgerald coordinated the response to this incident with the NMFS Alaska Regional Office, the North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The confirmed short-tailed albatross had a leg band identifying its natal breeding colony in Japan and was 5 years old.

By Kerim Aydin and Shannon Fitzgerald

Multispecies Modeling

Kirstin Holsman attended the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Annual Science Conference on 15-19 September 2014 in A Coruña, Spain,  to present her talk titled “Reading the crystal ball: using climate-specific multispecies models to evaluate future harvest.”  At the meeting she also met with scientists from other countries and universities, as well as NOAA regional offices, to discuss climate change, multi-species stock assessment models, and integrated ecosystem assessments. She will continue these collaborations through participation in ICES working groups, including remotely attending the ICES multispecies stock assessment working group meeting (chaired by Daniel Howell) in October.

By Kirstin Holsman


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