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NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-AFSC-373

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Model-based essential fish habitat definitions for Gulf of Alaska groundfish species


Defining essential habitats for fishes and invertebrates is an important step in managing groundfish species in Alaska waters. Species distribution models have been widely used to describe the potential habitat of species found in marine and terrestrial systems. The models themselves can take a number of forms, from relatively simple frameworks such as generalized linear or additive models to complex modeling frameworks such as Maximum Entropy Modeling (MaxEnt). We used several modeling methods and data from scientific surveys and commercial fisheries to define essential habitats for 36 species from the Gulf of Alaska. Adult, juvenile, larval and egg stages were seasonally modeled where data were available. Bottom depth was the dominant variable determining the distribution of most adult and juvenile life history stages. Sea surface temperature was the most important predictor of ichthyoplankton distribution. The model results were used to develop maps that depicted the boundaries delineating essential fish habitat for each species and life stage. These maps will be used for marine spatial planning and assessing impacts of anthropogenic activities in Alaska’s marine environment.


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