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Shellfish Assessment Program - Kodiak Laboratory

Rescue and Retrieval of Historic Bering Sea Crab Data

figure 4, see caption
Figure 4.  Handwritten table for John R. Manning Bering Sea king crab survey, May 1968.  USFWS Bureau of Commercial Fisheries.

Research concerning the biology, stock abundance, and distribution of crab in the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea has been the primary focus of programs at the AFSC's Kodiak Laboratory. Establishing an accurate time series of data related to the eastern Bering Sea king and Tanner crab stocks is necessary to adequately assess these commercially important and fluctuating crab stocks.

As part of this effort, the arduous and time-consuming process of error checking and reproducing the data series of annual surveys from 1975 to present was recently standardized by Kodiak Laboratory staff Claire Armistead and Liz Chilton. The database serves scientists within the AFSC as well as agencies and universities involved in research and modeling efforts concerning population dynamics, fishery management, and ecology.

Pre-1975 archived records exist that include crab survey data, pilot house logs, and research records from the Bering Sea that have not been adequately assessed for accuracy and consistency with the current time series or made available electronically. These historic eastern Bering Sea survey records include embedded environmental data such as bottom temperatures and on-site weather observations.

research vessel John R. Manning
Figure 6.  Research vessel John R. Manning.  USFWS, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries photo.


In 1997 and 1998, these records were initially inventoried through a contract funded by NOAA's Earth System Data and Information Management program. In 2008, Kodiak Laboratory staff received a grant from NOAA's Climate Database Modernization Program (CDMP) for scanning and digitizing the archived pre-1975 crab survey data and records. The project continues in 2009.

Initially, crab survey data directly associated with environmental data became the primary focus of the project in an effort to identify the extent of new information not previously published. Thus far, more than 103,000 records (6,200 images) of 1966-74 eastern Bering Sea survey data from the National Marine Fisheries Service and its predecessor agency the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries have been scanned, archived, and entered into database file formats.

Recently, five albums were found containing cruise reports and cruise photographs for the period 1960-1964 and are waiting scanning and digitization.

An example of the types of information that will be analyzed upon completion of the data entry is the 1968 crab distribution compared to bottom temperatures. The data (Fig. 5) were collected aboard the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries research vessel John R. Manning (Fig. 6) and will be important when comparing stock abundance and productivity with environmental and ultimately climate-scale variability in the eastern Bering Sea.

Our primary objective for this archival project remains unchanged: to preserve these historic data records, provide indexing for guided retrieval, and make this valuable resource available to scientists for their research. After the designated archive data has been scanned, digitized, and reviewed, a relational database will be created that integrates these archived survey records with the existing 1975-present time series and will ultimately be available on the AFSC web site.

By Beverly Malley and Robert Foy

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