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Fisheries Behavioral Ecology
Research Topic 2: Fish Habitat

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In 1996, the US Congress mandated that federal fisheries must be managed with consideration of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), and that the habitats of resource species be managed and protected for long-term sustainability of fisheries. Much of the subsequent research involved compiling data on distribution, abundance and life history of the 700 federally managed fishery stocks. However, EFH has been defined as "those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to maturity.” Identification and protection of critical habitats necessitates a fundamental understanding of the habitat requirements and ecological processes that affect distribution, abundance, and production of fishes in all life history stages. Habitat-related research of the Fisheries Behavioral Ecology Program has focused on bottom-dwelling fishes that comprise large commercial fisheries in Alaska, and experimental analysis of habitat associations. Research emphasis has been placed on juvenile stages of flatfishes with the purpose of identifying the principles that determine habitat quality and the potential impacts of fishing gear on fish habitat.

Recent projects and current research efforts:

  • Size-related sediment preferences and burial capabilities

Various bottom sediment types. Juvenile northern rock sole.

Apparatus for testing sediment preferences in flatfishes. Seven sediment types, pebbles to mud, interspersed and arranged in equal wedges 25-40 mm deep.

Juvenile northern rock sole tested for size-specific sediment preferences.


  • Role of physical structures, such as sponges, bryozoans, and shell material, in habitat preferences by flatfishes

Bivalve shell sediment type experiment. Sponge sediment type experiment. Bryozoan sediment type experiment. Sandwave sediment type experiment.

Four types of physical structures (left to right: bivalve shells, sponges, bryozoans, and sandwaves) used in pairwise tests with smooth sand to test habitat preferences on juvenile Pacific halibut and northern rock sole. These are benthic structures frequently removed by fishing gear.


  • Mediation of predator-prey relationships by physical structures removed by fishing gear
  • Field investigation of fish habitat associations, and survey methods for habitat research
  • Integration of global positioning system (GPS) navigation with video camera sled work (see pictures below) so that habitats and fish distributions can be analyzed through both multivariate statistical approach and geographic information systems (GIS) for mapping and spatially-explicit interpretation

Video and Navigation Station. Video camera sled.

 

Research Topic 1: Fish and Environment

Research Topic 2: Fish Habitat

Research Topic 3: Bycatch Mortality

Research Topic 4: Fishing Gear

 

Last updated 27 March, 2009


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