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Loss of Sea Ice Workshop

On 19 July 2006, the AFSC’s new Habitat and Ecological Processes Research (HEPR) Program convened a workshop to review an implementation plan for a permanent, long-term research program directed at determining the impacts of the loss of sea ice on the Bering and Chukchi Seas. The workshop purpose was to provide AFSC scientists the opportunity to review the draft before the plan is finalized.

Three independent but interrelated research themes have been identified for the Loss of Sea Ice (LOSI) program, which focus on loss of sea ice in different regions and seasons:

  • Theme 1 - Enhanced forecast capabilities through a focus on winter preconditioning and the influence of winter ocean conditions on the spawning distributions of commercially important fish and shellfish species
  • Theme 2 - Enhanced forecast model capabilities through a focus on ice edge processes including the development of spring bloom and the foraging behavior and movement of ice dependent seals
  • Theme 3: Enhanced knowledge of stock status and trends through expanded assessments and comparative approaches with focus on benthic-pelagic coupling
 LOSI Workshop Participants
 Jennifer Ferdinand (FMA)
 Ron Felthoven (REFM)
 Anne Hollowed (REFM)
 Dan Ito (REFM)
 Kerim Aydin (REFM)
 Janet Duffy-Anderson (RACE)
 Phyllis Stabeno (PMEL)
 Pat Livingston (REFM)
 Buck Stockhausen (REFM)
 Chris Wilson (RACE)
 Jim Ianelli (REFM)
 Michael Cameron (NMML)
 Peter Boveng (NMML)
 Russ Nelson (RACE)
 Dave Rugh (NMML)
 Dave Somerton (RACE)
 Jim Coe (OCD)
 Bernard Megrey (RACE)
 Mike Sigler (HEPR)
 Jamal Moss (ABL)
 Lisa Eisner (ABL)

The LOSI implementation plan will be finalized in fall 2006. The HEPR Program is working with AFSC Leadership and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service headquarters to fund the research themes outlined in the LOSI implementation plan. If successful, the HEPR Program will seek integrated proposals from the AFSC and the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) to implement the plan in spring 2009.

The impetus for the LOSI program stemmed from recent observations that the depth-averaged temperature of the eastern Bering Sea is warming and results of the Arctic Impact Assessment that indicate that climate change will have profound impacts on managed species in the Bering Sea. Scientists expect that in the next 50 years, these shifts will alter the spatial distribution and abundance of managed species in the Bering Sea, resulting in major changes to the Alaskan economy and the Bering Sea ecosystem. A research program targeting impacts of loss of sea ice is needed to study this unprecedented change within the historical record. Without a program in place now, the opportunity to monitor these changes will be foregone, and NOAA will be far less able to meet agency responsibilities for management of fish and marine mammal species.

Planning for a Loss of Sea Ice program in the Bering Sea was initiated by a series of intra- and interagency workshops. The workshops brought together an interdisciplinary group of scientists to discuss and review ideas for implementing research on the effects of climate on sea ice formation in the Bering Sea and its associated impact on living marine resources and habitat. The core elements of a joint AFSC/PMEL LOSI program were outlined in a proposal developed in April 2005 by the Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations (EcoFOCI) program and elaborated in reports on HEPR workshops conducted in June 2005, September 2005, and May 2006.

Recognizing that efforts to understand the role of sea ice in the Bering Sea ecosystem would require an interagency coordinated effort employing the unique capabilities of each contributing agency also led to the formation of the Bering Sea Ecosystem Interagency Working Group (BIAW). The BIAW represents the North Pacific Research Board, National Science Foundation’s Bering Sea Ecosystem Study, U. S. Geological Survey, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Ocean Observ-ing System, University of Alaska Fairbanks, U.S. Arctic Research Commission, the AFSC, and PMEL.

 EFH Workshop Participants
 Dan Ito (REFM)
 Kerim Aydin (REFM)
 Craig Rose (RACE)
 Buck Stockhausen (REFM)
 Mark Carls (ABL)
 Matt Eagleton (AKRO)
 Bob Stone (ABL)
 Mitch Lorenz (ABL)
 Bob McConnaughey (RACE)
 Jennifer Ferdinand (FMA)
 Bern Megrey (RACE)
 Jon Heifetz (ABL)
 Alan Haynie (REFM)
 Ron Felthoven (REFM)
 Ron Heintz (ABL)
 Mike Sigler (HEPR)

Essential Fish Habitat Workshop

On 19 July 2006, the Habitat and Ecological Processes Research (HEPR) Program convened a workshop to review the NOAA Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Research Plan for Alaska for FY 2007–11. The goal of the workshop was to provide AFSC scientists the opportunity to review the draft before the plan was finalized. The plan identified three research priorities:

  • Coastal areas facing development
  • Characterization of habitat utilization and productivity
  • Sensitivity, impact, and recovery of disturbed benthic habitat

The EFH plan has been finalized and approved by the AFSC Science Director and Alaska Regional Office Administrator. A copy is available on the AFSC Web site at

By Michael Sigler

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