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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

  • BENSON, I. M., C. R. KASTELLE, T. E. HELSER, J. A. SHORT, and D. M. ANDERL 2019. Age interpretation in eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus) as suggested by otolith microchemical signatures. Environ. Biol. Fish. Early Online.   Online.
  • BOLDT J. L., THOMPSON M., ROOPER C. N., HAY D. E., SCHWEIGERT J. F., QUINN T. J. II, CLEARY J. S., NEVILLE C. M. 2018. Bottom-up and top-down control of small pelagic forage fish: factors affecting age-0 herring in the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. Early Online.   Online.
  • WILSON, M. T., A. DOUGHERTY, M. E. MATTA, K. L. MIER, and J. A. MILLER. 2018. Otolith chemistry of juvenile walleye pollock Gadus chalcogrammus in relation to regional hydrography: evidence of spatially split cohorts. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 588:163-178.   Online.
  • BISHOP, M. A., and J. H. EILER. 2017. Migration patterns of post-spawning Pacific herring in a subarctic sound. Deep Sea Res. II.   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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