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Laboratory analysis was performed on 4,338 groundfish stomachs from the eastern Bering Sea, 1,249 from the Gulf of Alaska, and 55 from the Aleutian Islands. No stomachs were collected.

Seabird Fishery Interaction Research

The AFSC  is increasing its research emphasis on seabird-fishery interactions and incorporating seabirds into ecosystems models for the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. The increased emphasis is in response to national efforts to minimizie seabird bycatch through fishing gear improvements, standardized reporting, and education and outreach. The Center has been characterizing all components of seabird mortality from commercial fishing operations and working collaboratively with the fishing industry and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reduce or eliminate seabird bycatch in areas where distribution of the endangered short-tailed albatross and commercial fishery operations overlap. Current research priorities include continued work to reduce longline seabird bycatch, investigating the incidence of seabird interactions with trawl third wires, developing options for monitoring halibut fleet seabird bycatch, and developing reporting procedures to ensure the public has access to seabird bycatch rates and study results.

Additional information on National Bycatch Strategy is available on the NOAA Fisheries website at images/FINALstrategy.pdf and more specifically, on seabird bycatch, as noted by the National Plan of Action to reduce seabird bycatch in longline fisheries at

By Shannon Fitzgerald.

Ecosystem Modeling Coordination

The Center hosted a workshop on marine food web modeling, chaired by Kerim Aydin, during the week of 24 March.  The purpose of the workshop was to coordinate data methodologies for constructing quantitative marine food webs and for evaluating the resulting indicators of trophic flow in an ecosystem context. Participants focused on improving the design of current models of the eastern Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and the Northern California Current. During the meeting, fish, marine mammal, and plankton data were compared between modeled regions; issues of spatial resolution were resolved; and methods for linking databases were standardized to aid incorporation into the Ecosystem Assessment process on an ongoing basis. Workshop attendees included AFSC staff and participants from the University of Washington.

By Kerim Aydin.

Bering Sea Research Planning

AFSC scientists Pat Livingston and Jeff Napp participated in a workshop in Seattle on  17-19 March 2003 as part of a working group that will assist in the development of a Bering Sea research plan, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), to identify research priorities and develop a science plan for an initiative to understand the ecology of the eastern Bering Sea. The NSF is providing funds to a planning process for such a research program that could run in excess of five years, with field work targeted to start in 2005. The Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS) is providing meeting support for the planning process, as well as assisting with the preparation of a science plan. The working group outlined a draft science plan  based on the question: How will climate change affect the ecosystems of the Bering Sea? A second workshop is tentatively schedule in June 2003 to focus on refining the research plan and priorities. Following opportunities for public review, revision and publication of the science plan, a procedure for implementing the plan will be developed. The goal is that a competition for funds could occur in 2004, with field research in the Bering Sea scheduled for spring 2005, subject to funding and ship availability. The ARCUS website provides more details about the planning process, working group members, and progress in development of the science plan at

By Pat Livingston.


Economic Data Collection Programs: BSAI Crab Fishery Data

In early February, the NPFMC adopted a program to collect economic data from the harvesting and processing sectors of the Bering Sea-Aleutian Islands (BSAI) crab fisheries. The data are to be used to evaluate the success of the rationalization program. The program would collect revenue, employment, variable cost data and any fixed cost data necessary to analyze variable costs. A third party entity will collect the data and provide it to analysts in a blind format to ensure confidentiality. NMFS and the Council will promote development of additional legislative and regulatory protection for these data as needed. The program is the result of cooperative efforts by the industry, the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, other state agencies, and NMFS.

Electronic Logbook Pilot Project for the BSAI and GOA Groundfish Fisheries

Logbook record keeping and reporting are required for fishing vessels greater than 60 feet in overall length that participate in the BSAI and Gulf of Alaska groundfish fisheries. Software has been developed to allow fishermen to record and submit data electronically. The Alaska Regional Office has developed software to accept the electronic logbook data and has approved the use of the electronic logbook system as an alternative to hard copy logbooks. Electronic logbooks are expected to be an efficient method to provide improved access to more accurate and complete information for fisheries research and management. In addition, electronic logbooks store data in a format that allows vessel operators to use the data more easily and more productively to monitor and improve fishing operations. Therefore, through a cooperative agreement with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, the AFSC  has initiated a pilot project to facilitate the use of electronic logbooks by trawl catcher vessels in the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries.

The plan is to provide the electronic logbook software, developed by OceanLogic, free of charge to 50 trawlers. During the first quarter of 2003, OceanLogic installed the software on 31 trawlers that participate in the pollock and Pacific cod fisheries. The electronic logbook system is being used on 11 of the 31 trawlers to record and report to NMFS required logbook data. For many of the other 20 trawlers on which the software has been installed, the software is being used experimentally to record data but not for submission to NMFS. The plan is to have the software installed on an additional 19 trawlers in the near future, to encourage its use on the 50 trawlers which will have received the software under this pilot project, and to ask vessel operators to submit voluntarily the frequent time and location data that are automatically recorded by the electronic logbook system on the vessels. In a cooperative effort among fishermen, OceanLogic, and the AFSC, the software will be enhanced to allow fishermen to record additional data that will be of use to fishermen and NMFS in monitoring economic performance. There has been a lively discussions among fishermen about the pros and cons of using the electronic logbook system to both record and report logbook data.

Compared to the hard copy logbooks currently used, electronic logbooks are expected to have several critical advantages with respect to providing data for fishermen, fishery research, and management.

  1. A vessel’s data will be easier for the vessel operator to access and use because it will be in an electronic format that can be used by a variety of existing and planned software packages.
  2. More timely data will be available to NMFS managers and scientists because the data will be submitted more frequently and quickly and entered into a database automatically shortly after being received. With hard copy logbooks, vessel operators are required to submit copies of their logbook data to the Region within 1 month of the end of each quarter; therefore, timely data are not available even in a hard copy format.
  3. Data entry errors that occur after the Region receives the data will be reduced because the data entered by the vessel operator and the vessel’s electronic logbook system will feed directly into the agency’s logbook database.
  4. The quality of the data that is submitted to the Region will improve. First, the time and location for each haul set and retrieval is entered automatically using data from the vessel’s GPS system. The vessel operator simply pushes a button at the beginning and end of each haul. Second, the software that has been developed by the Region to receive the electronic logbook data checks for errors; and, if errors are found, the errors are flagged and sent to the vessel operator who submitted the data.
  5. The electronic logbook system can provide more information than is available from the hard copy logbooks. The data recording software that has been developed by OceanLogic automatically and frequently collects vessel location information during each tow. The logbook data currently includes just the set and retrieval locations, not frequent vessel location data.

Measures of Economic Performance

Fisheries policy is often aimed at sustaining and improving economic performance, but the use of traditional productivity measurement to assess performance over time has been  limited. “Directions for Productivity Measurement in Fisheries,” by Drs. Ron Felthoven and Cathy Morrison Paul (U.C. Davis) reviews the currently sparse literature on productivity in fisheries and suggest ways to better account for many of the relevant issues unique to the industry. Specifically, they discuss the need to incorporate bycatch levels to better account for environmental and stock fluctuations, and to relax some of the restrictive economic assumptions that have been imposed in the research to date. A methodological framework that may be used to incorporate these factors is proposed. They will use this framework in current empirical research.

Due to a lack of data on vessel costs, earnings, and input use, many of the capacity assessment models developed in the economics literature cannot be applied in U.S. fisheries. This incongruity between available data and model requirements underscores the need for developing applicable methodologies. In “Measuring Fishing Capacity and Utilization with Commonly Available Data: An Application to Alaskan Fisheries” Ron Felthoven, Terry Hiatt, and Joe Terry present a means of assessing fishing capacity and utilization (for both vessels and fish stocks) with commonly available data, while avoiding some of the shortcomings associated with competing frontier approaches (such as data envelopment analysis). They apply the methodology to the catcher-vessels and catcher-processors operating in Alaskan federally managed fisheries in 2001 and examine trends in fishing effort and participation since 1990.

Sociocultural Research

Driven by the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Executive Order on Environmental Justice, and the demand among stakeholders for social science to inform fisheries policy, the need for NMFS to conduct social science research is widely accepted. But how such research should be carried out is not well established. Challenges in the North Pacific region include the wide-ranging geographical area and cultural diversity of communities involved in fishing, making it difficult to address specific local sociocultural conditions through participant observation and ethnographic methods. Additionally, while agency emphases create a focus on community-level impacts, these must be situated analytically in terms of a series of nested scales, which include micro-level or sub-population experiences and important large-scale forces such as transnational labor migration and globalization. Amanda Poole and Jennifer Sepez discussed these issues in their paper “NMFS Social Science in Challenges in Alaska: Reflections on Methodology and Scale ” presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology meetings in Portland, Oregon, 19-22 March.

The Center cosponsored the Society of Ethnobiology 26th Annual Conference at the University of Washington, 26-29 March 2003. Ethnobiology is the study of the relationships of plants and animals with human cultures worldwide. Also called folk biology, ethnobiology can include ethnobotany, ethnozoology, ethnoichthyology, ethnoentomology, ethnoecology, comparative taxonomy, indigenous intellectual property rights, subsistence practices, and traditional ecological knowledge.

Jennifer Sepez, Christina Package and Amanda Poole helped organize the conference, and Jennifer Sepez organized a session titled “Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Natural Resource Management Agencies.” Session topics included the NMFS Local Fisheries Knowledge Project, EPA’s Tribal Science Council, USFWS’s Medicinal Plants Working Group, Skokomish and Swinomish Wetlands Projects, tradition knowledge in a North Slope EIS, and using the Aleut language to name a new snailfish discovered by AFSC taxonomist Jay Orr. Other sessions covered topics in ethnobotany, biocultural diversity, agroecology, and cognition/taxonomy.

“The name of the fish: use of indigenous language in creating scientific names for newly discovered species” was presented by Jennifer Sepez and jointly authored with Jay Orr of the AFSC, and Moses Dirks, Aleut (Unangan) language teacher in the Unalaska School District. The paper describes their joint effort to name a newly recognized species of snailfish (Careproctus sp.) by referencing the local native language. This effort represents the first time such a collaborative endeavor has been undertaken by NMFS and is part of a larger trend in the agency towards integrating traditional native knowledge into fisheries science.  The naming process honors the relationship between the people of the Aleutian Islands and the local environment.

By Joe Terry.

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