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Forage Fish Research

Forage Fish
APEX Investigation
Food Habits
Ichthyoplankton Info
Life History Data
Oil Spill Studies
Recruitment Processes
Research Reports
Sea Lion Studies
photo of eulachon
Eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus).

Forage fishes are of particular concern in Alaska because the decline of these species is considered to be a potential cause of dramatic declines in populations of Steller sea lions, fur seals, and seabirds during the past 20 years. Forage fishes are abundant, schooling fishes preyed upon by many species of seabirds, marine mammals, and other fish species. They provide important ecosystem functions by transferring energy from primary or secondary producers to higher trophic levels.

Major forage fishes in Alaska include juvenile walleye pollock, Pacific herring, Pacific sand lance, capelin, eulachon, and Atka mackerel. Other species, such as Pacific salmon juveniles, are sometimes important (usually seasonally or locally). The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has designated a special forage fish management category to prevent directed fishing on some groups of forage including: gunnels, lanternfish, sandfish, sandlance, smelts, stichaeids, and euphausiids.

Most forage fishes are distinguished by schooling behavior, relatively short life spans, and are locally abundant. Most species have demersal eggs, but walleye pollock have pelagic eggs which are spawned in deep water along the continental shelf. Other species spawn in freshwater streams (e.g., Pacific salmon and eulachon), and some species spawn in the shallow water along the beach (e.g., capelin, Pacific sand lance, and Pacific herring.)

Recent Forage Fish Publications, Poster Presentations, & Research Activities

  • MURADIAN, M. L., T. A. BRANCH, S. D. MOFFITT, and P.-J. F. HULSON. 2017. Bayesian stock assessment of Pacific herring in Prince William Sound, Alaska. PLOS ONE 12:e0172153.   Online.
  • SIGLER, M. F., J. M. NAPP, P. J. STABENO, R. A. HEINTZ, M. W. LOMAS, and G. L. HUNT Jr. 2016. Variation in annual production of copepods, euphausiids, and juvenile walleye pollock in the southeastern Bering Sea. Deep Sea Res. II 134:223-234.   Online.
  • BARTON, M.B., J. R. MORAN, J. J. VOLLENWEIDER, R A. HEINTZ, and K. M. BOSWELL. 2016. Latitudinal dependence of body condition, growth rate, and stable isotopes of juvenile capelin (Mallotus villosus) in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Polar Biol. Early online.  Online.
  • McDERMOTT, S. F., V. HAIST, and K. M. RAND. 2016. Evaluating the efficacy of trawl exclusion zones by estimating local Atka mackerel abundance and movement patterns in the central and eastern Aleutian Islands. Mar. Coastal Fish. 8:334-349.  Online.
  • Local Abundance and Movement of Atka Mackerel and Other Steller Sea Lion Prey in the Aleutian Islands
    Conference:  Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Anchorage, AK, Jan 2016
    (2016 poster, .pdf, 866 KB)   Online.

  • Opportunistic Use of a Towed Stereo Video System Taking Advantage of Pre-existing Platforms During Atka Mackerel Tagging Research
    Conference:  American Fisheries Society, 145th Annual Meeting, Portland, OR, Aug 2015
    (2015 poster, .pdf, 6.17 MB)   Online.

  • Related AFSC research program reports and activities: forage fish
  • Steller Sea Lion Project Theme: Foraging
  • Steller Sea Lion Project Theme: Fish Assessment and Fisheries

  • Additional publications, posters, and reports.

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