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Status of Stocks & Multispecies Assessment Program

Aleutian Islands Pollock Acoustic Survey Feasibility Study

Steve Barbeaux, of the Fishery Interaction Team and the Status of Stocks and Multispecies Assessment (SSMA) program, designed and conducted the Aleutian Islands pollock acoustic survey feasibility study, which occurred during March. The purpose of the study was to test the feasibility of using commercial fishing vessels to conduct acoustic surveys for pollock in the Aleutian Islands subarea. The acoustic and biological information from the project is currently being analyzed to determine: 1) if it is feasible to conduct acoustic surveys in the Aleutian Islands subarea using commercial fishing vessels, 2) if the data collected in such a manner is of sufficient quality for management purposes, and 3) if the local aggregations of pollock are stable enough during spawning season to allow for fine-scale spatial and temporal management. Additionally, genetic samples were collected that will be used for stock structure analysis.

The project had three activity phases: 1) evaluating the commercial fishing vessel's appropriateness as an acoustic sampling platform; 2) opportunistically collecting acoustic data of pollock distribution around two sites, Kanaga Sound and Atka Island and 3) direct acoustic and biological data sampling at Atka Island (up to ten 1- to 3-day trips). To verify the acoustic data and to support the study, 1,000 t of walleye pollock were permitted to be harvested within an area that includes waters within 20 nmi of Steller sea lion haulouts and rookeries. This harvest was permitted under an Experimental Fishing Permit awarded to the Aleut Enterprise Corporation.

The acoustic survey and fishing were conducted on board the fishing vessel Muir Milach. Conducting the project within Steller sea lion critical habitat was necessary because pollock aggregations must be encountered to support the work, and historical information about the occurrence of pollock indicates that pollock aggregations were likely to occur inside critical habitat.

By Elizabeth Logerwell

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