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Status of Stocks & Multispecies Assessment Program

Scientists Survey the Chukchi Sea Ocean Shelf and Canyon

Research Reports
July-Aug-Sept 2013
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RACE Reports
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Figure 1. Station and transect locations for nearshore (purple) and offshore (yellow) components of the SHELFZ 2013 survey. Depth contours are in meters.

A group of scientists from the AFSC, University of Washington (UW), and University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) surveyed the fish and invertebrate community this summer offshore of 20 m of the Chukchi Sea and into Barrow Canyon (Fig. 1). Our work was part of the Shelf Habitat and EcoLogy of Fish and Zooplankton (SHELFZ) project. The project is funded by the State of Alaska Coast Impact Assistance Program, and lead by Leandra de Sousa, of the North Slope Borough, Department of Wildlife Management, in Barrow, Alaska.

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Figure 2. A bottom trawl catch from the offshore survey. From left to right: Troy Buckley (AFSC), Brian Beaver (F/V Alaska Knight crewmember), Alexei Pinchuk (UAF) and Roger Clarke (contractor). Photograph by Andy Whitehouse.


The goal of SHELFZ is to collect baseline information needed to detect and predict impacts of changing environment and increased human activities on arctic ecosystems. The focus is on areas and resources integral to subsistence communities of the North Slope of Alaska. Our work was conducted onboard the chartered commercial trawler F/V Alaska Knight, from 17 August to 4 September 2013. We surveyed the area with bottom trawls, mid-water trawls, fishery acoustics, zooplankton nets, and oceanographic instruments. The benthic community was dominated by invertebrates such as seastars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, snails, and hermit crabs (Fig. 2). Fish, including arctic cod, sculpins, eelpouts, and snailfish made up a relatively small proportion of the benthic biomass. A small number of sub-adult pollock were caught in the bottom trawls. Acoustic data and midwater trawl catches indicated that the biomass in the water column was made up primarily of age-0 cod, jellyfish, and zooplankton such as euphausiids, copepods, and amphipods. Concurrently with our offshore survey, another group of scientists from the UW, UAF, and the North Slope Borough collected similar data inshore of 20 m, including sampling with beach seines. Together these data sets will help us understand the relationships and interactions between offshore and inshore systems of the Chukchi Sea.

By Libby Logerwell


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