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Habitat & Ecological Processes Research (HEPR)

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Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program

The North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) decided the outcome of the Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (BSIERP) in July. NPRB awarded major support to a proposal written by university and federal scientists.

The study focuses on understanding trophic interactions among: 1) colony-based foragers, 2) hot spot foragers, 3) pelagic forage species, and 4) pelagic predators. NPRB awarded support for several study components including oceanographic moorings, fish, whales, seabirds, trophic interactions and local and traditional knowledge.

In addition, the National Science Foundation is funding complementary Bering Sea research through the Bering Ecosystem Study (BEST). The principal investigators from BSIERP and BEST will collaborate in this research; their first meeting occurred 17-19 September 2007 in Seattle.

The BSIERP and BEST research programs will join several disciplines of marine science in an integrated study ranging from oceanography, fish, birds, and mammals to effects on human society. The integrated ecosystem research program will be immensely challenging both intellectually and organizationally. Program results will add understanding of the Bering Sea and provide information that underpins an ecosystem approach to management.

By Mike Sigler

Habitat Data Workshop

Essential fish habitat research has been conducted since passage of the Sustainable Fisheries Act in 1996, but no formal effort has been made to inventory habitat data collected by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. In 2005, the HEPR Team identified a habitat data inventory as high priority, and subsequently, funds were provided to support a workshop. Bob McConnaughey, John Olson, and Jon Heifetz organized a Habitat Data Workshop, which was held on 20 September 2007 in Seattle. Twenty-six people from the AFSC, NMFS Alaska Regional Office, North Pacific Fishery Management Council, Oceana, and the ADF&G participated. Twenty-two habitat data collections were inventoried with a standard format. The habitat data inventory will be published as an AFSC Processed Report.

An additional workshop outcome is a geo-referenced “Alaska Bathymetry/Seafloor Habitat and Biota” pilot database. The pilot database will be built from Alaska bathymetry developed by Steve Lewis (Alaska Regional Office) and small multibeam and submersible dive data sets from Jon Heifetz and Kalei Shotwell (Auke Bay Laboratories). The pilot database will follow the ShoreZone/Nearshore Fish Atlas approach.

By Mike Sigler

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