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Forage Fish Symposium at Friday Harbor, Washington

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July-Sept 2012
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AFSC scientists Olav Ormseth and Stephani Zador participated in the symposium on the Conservation and Ecology of Marine Forage Fishes, held 13-14 September at the Friday Harbor Laboratories, Washington, hosted by the Northwest Straits Initiative in partnership with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Geological Survey, and the Puget Sound Partnership. The majority of the symposium participants were from the U.S. Pacific Northwest, but experts from outside the region were invited to lend broader perspectives. Olav gave the presentation “Management and monitoring of forage fishes in Alaska.” The subject included defining a forage fish in Alaska, describing the complex management (or lack thereof) of this diverse group of fishes, and potential solutions to monitoring challenges. For example, some species such as sand lance are included in a fishery management plan for a forage fish group for which targeting is prohibited; juvenile Pacific salmon are managed by the state as adults; juvenile walleye pollock are managed federally as adults; and Pacific herring are both a state commercial species and a federally-prohibited species. Also, there are disparities among estimates of forage fish biomass due to lack of long-term surveys designed to catch forage fish. Potential monitoring solutions presented include combining all available sources of data to estimate uncertainty across methods, analyzing bycatch patterns in acoustic surveys, and using alternative measures of abundance such as forage-fish-eating seabird productivity and diets of forage-fish-eating seabirds and halibut. Forage fishes in Alaska have diverse biology, human use, and management but are an important part of our ecosystem approach to fishery management. Research is underway to better understand the status of these fishes in Alaska. More information on management and monitoring of forage fishes in Alaska is available in the Status of Stocks and Multispecies Assessment section of this report.

By Stephani Zador


Fisheries and the Environment Annual Science Meeting

The annual Fisheries and the Environment (FATE) science meeting was held 1-2 August 2012 at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) in Santa Cruz, California. FATE scientists are tasked with incorporating fisheries and environmental data to improve stock and integrated ecosystem assessments. More than 50 scientists with NOAA Fisheries six regional science centers attended the meeting where topics presented  included the relationship of fisheries to climate, lower trophics, physics, and modeling. 

Examples of presentations included:  “Linking demersal fish abundance to climate: matching impact with stage to elucidate mechanisms”; “Does the phenology of plankton blooms affect the recruitment of spring spawning fishes on the northeast shelf?”;  “Identification of abiotic and biotic factors in the diet of groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska”; “A summary of fronts & predators, how ENSO affects sardines, and correlating the PDO and sardines”;  “Delineating ecosystem overfishing via analysis of ecosystem indicator inflection points”; “How precise and/or accurate do forecasts of FATE ecosystem indicators need to be to be useful to stock assessments?”;  “A statistical method for estimating larval production from length frequency and age-length observations collected in ichthyoplankton surveys”; “Developing indicator-based ecosystem assessments for diverse marine ecosystems in Alaska.”

One of the highlights of the meeting was a presentation by Todd O’Brian on COPEPOD and Time Series Analysis Tools.  COPEPOD is a global plankton database of phytoplankton and zooplankton data sampled from around the world. These on-line tools and data offer users the opportunity to conduct spatial temporal analysis and visualization of zooplankton and ancillary (temperature, salinity, climate indices) data and is designed to be user friendly and versatile.  Check it out at

By Lisa Eisner and Stephani Zador


Integrated Ecosystem Assessment Annual Meeting

Regional representatives from each of the NOAA Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) Program’s large marine ecosystems met in Boulder, Colorado, 4-7 September 2012 for the annual IEA workshop; Alaska IEA representatives K. Holsman and K. Aydin both attended the meeting (Aydin by phone).  Also attending were Alaska representatives Alan Haynie and Steve Kasperski.  Representatives presented updates on their regional IEAs including emerging results and ongoing progress towards implementing and updating regional IEAs. Additionally, speakers presented and led discussion sessions focused on each of the five IEA steps. Discussion sessions were used to share lessons learned and emerging results in order to inform continued IEA development and implementation across regions. K. Holsman presented Alaska IEA results and led the discussion about ecosystem risk assessment approaches; A. Haynie and S. Kasperski presented aspects of economic and social sciences components of IEAs. Lastly, representatives from each region met to prepare a FATE proposal (Hazen et al.) to synthesize various approaches and results from regional IEA scoping and indicator selection efforts; similar future synthesis of other IEA steps was also discussed.

By Kirstin Holsman

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