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Status of Stocks & Multispecies Assessment Program

2013 Groundfish Stock Assessment Summaries

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Oct-Nov-Dec 2013
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At the end of 2013, the AFSC compiled 46 stock assessments for the management of Alaskan groundfish fisheries. Most (27) of these assessments were summary updates (due to time constraints and regular sequence with biennial surveys). These formed separate "stock assessment and fishery evaluations" (SAFE) reports for the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) and the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) fishery management plan regions. Of the 19 assessments that were completed, 9 were from each region (the sablefish stock is assessed for both regions in a single Alaska-wide assessment). These reports present analyses of the extensive data collected by NMFS-trained fishery observers and AFSC scientists aboard dedicated research surveys. Observer data are used to estimate catch of target and prohibited species (e.g., salmon, crab, herring, and Pacific halibut) to ensure that fisheries do not exceed annually specified total allowable catches (TACs) or violate other fishery restrictions (like time-area closures). Results from the AFSC surveys, combined with observer data, are critical in conditioning statistical stock assessment models. Results from these models (and their estimates of uncertainty) are used to determine the status of individual species and make recommendations for future catch levels. This TAC-setting process involves annual presentations of these reports at a series of public meetings coordinated by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC).

The AFSC Midwater Assessment Conservation Engineering (MACE) Program conducted a survey in winter and summer of 2013 covering major areas of the GOA. The AFSC Marine Ecology and Stock Assessment Program runs the annual longline survey, which is designed primarily for sablefish but also produces data used in Greenland turbot and some rockfish assessments. The longline survey covers the slope regions of the GOA along with segments of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands regions. Also, during summer 2013, the Groundfish Assessment Program conducted bottom-trawl surveys in the eastern Bering Sea (EBS) shelf area and in the GOA, which totaled 915 trawl stations. Additionally, this group continued collecting acoustic data when transiting between EBS trawl stations. These data are used in the EBS pollock assessment.

The ecosystem considerations chapter of the SAFE report responded to extensive comments from the NPFMC's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) and had over 100 contributions across regions (55 of the contributions were either new or updated in 2013). In the Bering Sea, sea ice remained extensive in 2013. Jellyfish remain abundant in the groundfish survey. Motile epifanua and benthic foragers show stable biomass; pelagic foragers have increased from recent lows towards the mean, driven both by increases in pollock and capelin in the survey. Apex predators are near their 30-year mean, with a recent decrease in arrowtooth flounder on the shelf. Foraging conditions for seabirds have been favorable, and the first increase in fur seal pup production since 1998 was reported. In the Aleutian Islands an updated index of auklets suggested a decline; also there appeared to be a decline in the total area in which trawl fishing occurred. In the GOA, this chapter highlighted that the incidence of "mushy" halibut had declined and that a large pulse of larval/age-0 pollock found along the south side of the Alaska Peninsula could indicate a strong 2013 year class for pollock. Also, there was a record high pink salmon harvest (and record high numbers) in 2013 (219 M fish) which could indicate favorable environmental conditions in the past 2 years while these pink salmon were at sea. (continued)



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