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The Fishery Interaction Team:  Investigating the Potential
Impacts of Commercial Fishing On the Foraging Success
of Endangered Steller Sea Lions

by Elizabeth Logerwell, Lowell Fritz, Anne Hollowed, Susanne McDermott,
Phyllis Stabeno (Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory), and Christopher Wilson

picture of an Atka mackerel
An Atka mackerel moments before being tagged and released in Seguam Pass,
Aleutian Islands, during Fishery Interaction Team investigations, summer 2002.

In late 2000 the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management (REFM) Division formed the Fishery Interaction Team (FIT). Formation of the team was a result of earlier efforts among AFSC scientists in 1998-99 to develop a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the potential impact of commercial fishing on the spatial distribution of marine fishes, often involving researchers from other AFSC Divisions, NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), and universities. Presently, FIT researchers and their collaborators are interested in interactions between commercial fisheries and endangered Steller sea lions. Specifically, scientists are conducting experiments to determine whether commercial fishing operations impact the foraging success of sea lions either through disturbance of prey schools or through direct competition for a common prey. The team conducts field studies to examine potential commercial fishery impacts, including reduction in the abundance or shifts in the distribution of prey at local scales. In addition to studies of anthropogenic factors, FIT scientists conduct process-oriented field studies of the natural factors that influence the abundance, distribution, and species composition of Steller sea lion prey.

Recent FIT research activities focus on three commercially fished groundfish species: Atka mackerel (Pleurogrammus monopterygius), Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus), and walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma). This article, the second in a two-part series on the AFSC’s fishery interaction research efforts, describes two studies:

The first in the series of articles, “The Interactions of Commercial Fishing and Walleye Pollock,” described the AFSC’s investigation of the effects of fishing on pollock distribution and abundance off the east coast of Kodiak Island. The article was presented in the January-February-March 2002 issue of the AFSC Quarterly Report.

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