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Habitat Assessment & Marine Chemistry Program

Forage Fish in Nearshore Waters of Prince William Sound, Alaska

Nearshore fishes were sampled at eight locations in western Prince William Sound (PWS) in July and August 2007; this was the second year of a 2-year study funded by the North Pacific Research Board and the Alaska Oil Spill Research Institute. At each sampling location in July, fish were collected during the day with a beach seine in three shallow water (<5 m deep) habitats (eelgrass, kelp, bedrock outcrops).

In August, sampling was limited to eelgrass and kelp, and each location was sampled during the day and night. A total of 28,957 fish representing 26 species were captured in July 2007 compared to 5,274 fish representing 36 species in July 2006. Two large seine hauls of juvenile saffron cod (11,482 fish) and Pacific herring (13,078 fish) accounted for the much greater summer catch in 2007. Of the total catch in July 2007, 90% were captured in eelgrass; the dominant species were juvenile Pacific herring, saffron cod, and pink salmon.

In August 2007, total catch was similar between day and night sampling–629 fish were captured during the day compared to 552 fish at night. Species richness, however, was greater at night (30 species) than during the day (20). Pacific herring was the most abundant forage species captured in 2007.

Other forage species captured in small numbers were Pacific sand lance and capelin. Nearshore vegetated areas provide habitat for juvenile herring, particularly in summer in western PWS.

By Scott Johnson


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