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Resource Assessment &
Conservation Engineering

(Quarterly Report for April-May-June 2000)


Aleutian Islands Groundfish Survey
The fishing vessels Vesteraalen and Dominator were chartered for 75 days each to participate in the NMFS 2000 biennial bottom trawl survey of the Aleutian Islands region.  After loading on 17 and 18 May 2000 in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, the vessels began survey operations on 19 May.  The survey began near Akutan Island (long. 165°W) and will continue westward to Stalemate Bank (long. 170°E), west of Attu Island.  The charter period is scheduled to end in Dutch Harbor on 25 July.

The major survey objectives are to continue the triennial time series begun in 1980 and to begin a new biennial time series to monitor trends in distribution and abundance of important groundfish species and to describe and measure various biological and environmental parameters.  Other specific objectives of the 2000 survey include:

  1. Defining the distribution and relative abundance of the principle groundfish and commercially important invertebrate species inhabiting the Aleutian Islands region

  2. Obtaining catch and effort data from which to estimate the abundance of the principle groundfish species

  3. Collecting data to define selected biological parameters; that is, size, sex, age, growth, length-weight relationships, feeding habits, and spawning condition for selected species

  4. Monitoring and collecting trawl performance information

  5. Completing special collections as requested by other researchers or research groups

Methods and Gear
 The survey design is a stratified random sampling scheme consisting of approximately 450 stations selected randomly from a combination of successful tows completed during previous surveys and sites not previously trawled.  The selected sampling sites are allocated to 45 sampling strata defined by geographical location and depth, ranging from shallow nearshore depths to 500 m on the continental slope.

The charter vessels are conducting survey operations in close proximity to each other, with each vessel attempting a 15-minute trawl haul at assigned stations.  Catches are sorted, weighed and enumerated by species.  Biological information (length, age structures, maturity, individual weights, stomach contents, tissue samples, etc.) are collected for some preselected species.

Standard survey bottom trawling will be conducted with four seam, high-opening Poly Nor’Eastern trawls equipped with rubber bobbin roller gear.  This standard survey trawl has a 27.2-m headrope and 36.7-m footrope consisting of a 24.9-m center section with adjacent 5.9-m “flying wing” extensions.  Accessory gear for the Nor’Eastern trawl include 54.9-m triple dandylines and 1.8 X 2.7-m steel V-doors weighing approximately 850 kg each.

By Eric Brown.

Annual Bering Sea Crab and Groundfish Bottom Trawl Survey
The chartered fishing vessels Aldebaran and Arcturus departed Dutch Harbor on 21 May 2000 to conduct the annual bottom trawl survey of Bering Sea continental shelf groundfish and crab. Trawling operations began at the eastern end of Bristol Bay and will extend from inner Bristol Bay to the shelf break between Unimak Pass and St. Matthew Island, Alaska.  The primary objectives of the survey are to provide information on the distribution, abundance, and biological condition of important groundfish and crab resources; to continue studies of the biology, behavior, and dynamics of key ecosystem components; and, to provide the U.S. fishing industry information on catch-per-unit effort and the size composition of important commercial species of crab and groundfish.  The survey will end 30 July 2000 in Dutch Harbor

By Russ Nelson.

Biennial Bering Sea Continental Slope Bottom Trawl Survey

The first biennial bottom trawl survey of the Bering Sea continental slope groundfish and crab resources began 16 June 2000 in Dutch Harbor. The fishing vessel Morning Star was chartered for 35 days to conduct the first bottom trawl survey of the Bering Sea continental slope since 1991.  The 2000 survey began near the Alaska Peninsula and will extend as far west as long. 180°W between the depths of 200 and 1,100 m.  The primary objectives of the survey are to gain familiarity with the area and habitats to be surveyed biennially; to investigate the fishing performance of two different configurations of the Poly Nor’Eastern trawl; to describe the composition, distribution, and relative abundance of groundfish and invertebrate resources; to collect biological samples from a variety of commercially and ecologically important species of fish and invertebrates; and to collect temperature profiles in order to be able to relate changes in fish abundance with oceanographic conditions.  The survey will conclude 20 July 2000.

By Russ Nelson


On 8 June 2000, the Midwater Assessment and Conservation Engineering (MACE) Program began an echo integration-trawl survey of walleye pollock on the eastern Bering Sea shelf aboard the Miller Freeman.  The survey began in Kodiak, Alaska, and covers the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) waters from Port Moller, Alaska, to the U.S.-Russia Convention Line, ending on 3 August 2000 in Dutch Harbor.  The United States applied for but did not receive permission from the Russian government to survey pollock in Russia’s EEZ waters.

Primary objectives of the cruise are to collect the echo integration and trawl data MACE scientists require to estimate distribution, biological composition, and biomass of walleye pollock on the eastern Bering Sea shelf and slope.  Other cruise objectives are collection of pollock target strength data, calibration of the 38-kHz and 120-kHz scientific acoustic systems, collection of physical oceanographic data including temperature and salinity profiles, and continuous monitoring of sea surface temperature and salinity.

By Taina Honkalehto.

Tests of Halibut Excluders

From 17 to 30 June 2000, RACE scientists conducted tests of trawl modifications to exclude Pacific halibut from catches of Pacific cod.  The modifications consisted of panels of circular holes ahead of the trawl codend.  Cod that passed through them were retained in the catch, while fish that did not fit through, especially large halibut, were routed to an escape hole.

Underwater video cameras were used to observe fish behaviors in relation to the modifications.

Preliminary results of the tests indicated that:

  1. Cod were able to pass through the panels at all but the highest catch rate

  2. While the panels successfully excluded large halibut (>85 cm length) most of the halibut encountered were smaller (<65 cm) and passed through the grate with the cod

  3. Large skates blocked big portions of the grates frequently and reduced effectiveness (more escape of everything). This may have caused much of the escape variability

Another cruise is scheduled in August to follow up on this work. The cruise will emphasize the exclusion of small halibut and skates.

By Craig Rose.


The 26th Annual Meeting of the Advisory Committee of the U. S. - Polish Plankton Sorting and Identification Center (Zaklad Sortowania i Oznaczania Planktou: ZSIOP) was hosted by the RACE Division’s Recruitment Processes Task and held at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington, 6-8 June 2000.   Participating in the discussions on the U. S. side were Art Kendall, Jeff Napp, Ann Matarese, and Bruce Wing (AFSC);  Ken Sherman, Donna Busch, and Sharon MacLean (Northeast Fisheries Science Center); Don Hoss and Allyn Powell (National Ocean Service, Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research, Beaufort); and Joanne Lyczowski-Shultz (Southeast Fisheries Science Center).  The Polish participants included: Daniel Dutkiewicz and Tomasz Linkowski (Morski Institut Rybacki [MIR], Gdynia) and Leonard Ejsymont, Wanda Kalandyk, and Ma»gorzata Konieczna (ZSIOP, Szczecin).  The Advisory Committee meets to review the work of the previous year to determine whether it is in conformance with the Joint Studies Agreement (a continuation of the initial 1974 Grant Agreement).  The committee plans the work for the coming year and discusses ZSIOP operations, funding, training, sorting priorities, data exchange, status of joint research and reports, and new initiatives.

During the opening session, the U. S. delegation presented a letter of commendation and appreciation from Penelope Dalton, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA to Dr. Daniel Dutkiewicz, outgoing Acting Director of MIR, for his distinguished 26 years of continuous support to the joint U.S.-Poland program. The committee reviewed the accomplishments of ZSIOP during its 26-year history and took note of important contributions by ZSIOP to fisheries ecology and to studies in support of research conducted to improve the management and conservation of fisheries resources from an ecosystems perspective. Recommendations from the committee included:

  1. to exchange  scientists from the United States and Poland for continued training in ichthyoplankton, zooplankton, and phytoplankton taxonomy, ecology, and data processing

  2. to explore forming partnerships between U.S. and Polish scientists in Szczecin and elsewhere in MIR to work on joint research projects

  3. to develop a Global Environmental Facility (GEF) proposal to utilize the unique capabilities of ZSIOP in addressing global marine biodiversity issues

The committee was impressed with the high quality of analyses and significant number of samples processed during the past year, and with the excellent quality of processing Continuous Plankton Recorder silks at the branch of ZSIOP in Gdynia. In recognition of the long history of cooperation between the United States and Poland in fisheries research through ZSIOP, the committee agreed it would be fitting to complete a written history of this achievement.

A number of activities were planned for both the U. S. and Polish visiting scientists including trips to Seattle highlights, the Cascade Mountains, and Whidbey Island with evening get-togethers, barbeques, and a banquet dinner.  Lead scientists of the zooplankton and ichthyoplankton groups in Szczecin stayed in Seattle for an additional week to clarify various taxonomic problems.  Wanda Kalandyk worked with Jeff Napp and Debbie Siefert on the identification of calanoid copepods and the development of new zooplankton protocols.  Ma»gorzata Konieczna worked with Morgan Busby and Rachael Cartwright on the identification of larval liparids, agonids, and stichaeids and juvenile and transforming cottids and pleuronectids.  Ms. Konieczna was given specimens of various cottids and stichaeids to take back to Poland to help with those species that are more difficult to identify.

By Arthur Kendall.