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Resource Ecology & Ecosystem Modeling Program

Alaska Marine Ecosystem Considerations 2014 Report

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Fall 2014
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The Ecosystem Considerations report is produced annually for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council as part of the Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) report. The goal of the Ecosystem Considerations report is to provide the Council and other readers with an overview of marine ecosystems in Alaska through ecosystem assessments and by tracking time series of ecosystem indicators. The ecosystems under consideration include the Arctic, the eastern Bering Sea, the Aleutian Islands, and the Gulf of Alaska.

The report includes additional new and updated sections, including the 2014 Eastern Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Report Cards and ecosystem assessments. This year the “Hot Topics” section includes topics from most ecosystems. In the Arctic, a large phytoplankton bloom observed beneath the sea ice suggests that primary production pathways may be changing in the Chukchi Sea. The hot topic for the eastern Bering Sea was the observed mortalities of two endangered short-tailed albatross in association with a longline fishing vessel. The hot topics for the Gulf of Alaska include the “warm blob” of record high sea-surface temperatures that developed in early 2014 and persisted through the end of summer and the exceptionally high reproductive success across several seabird species in the western Gulf.  The section in the report that describes ecosystem and management indicators includes updates to 44 individual contributions and presents 6 new contributions. These include contributions on temporal trends in Pacific sand lance as revealed by puffins; using ecosystem indicators to develop a Chinook salmon abundance index for southeast Alaska; an eastern Bering Sea pollock recruitment index that incorporates sea temperature and salmon; occurrence of mushy halibut syndrome; and two updates on groundfish condition in the Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska.

Additional regional 2014 ecosystem highlights include the warm summer conditions in the eastern Bering Sea, including the early break up of sea ice, a reduced cold pool of bottom water, and warm surface air conditions. This was the first warm year following a sequence of seven cold years in the eastern Bering Sea. The Aleutian Islands also experienced warm temperatures; survey biomasses of most fish species increased compared with the last survey in 2012. In addition, a review of Gulf of Alaska indicators suggests that there was a shift in ecosystem state in 2006.

Presentations on ecosystem status and report contents were given to the Council’s Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Plan Teams in November and to the Scientific and Statistical Committee in December, when the 2015 groundfish quotas were set. The report is now available online at the Ecosystem Considerations website.

By Stephani Zador

Food Web Modeling

Kerim Aydin attended Ecopath 30 Years conference in Barcelona, Spain, 10-13 November 2014, whre he presented an invited lecture entitled “Notes from 30 years on the front lines of food web modeling in fisheries management” and discussed the methods through which food web models have been used in management scenarios in the Alaska region.

By Kerim Aydin


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