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During the fourth quarter of 2015, Resource Ecology and Ecosystem Modeling (REEM) analyzed  3,105 stomach samples were analyzed from the eastern Bering Sea  and an additional 86 stomach samples from the Gulf of Alaska.  Stomach contents data were error checked, and 20,874 records were added to the AFSC groundfish food habits database.  Increasingly, this data is being relied upon to inform management decisions and provide supporting evidence for ecological studies conducted by other institutions, organizations, and the public. To increase confidence in the precision and accuracy of the data and to provide increased consistency among analysts over time, quality control measures for prey identification and data entry were expanded and redefined.  No stomachs were collected by fishery observers this quarter. 

Two Nathan Hale High School students from Seattle, Maya Powell and Genna Kommavongsa, worked in the Trophic Interactions Laboratory on their senior projects.  Program  outreach activities also included providing educational activity information to educators in the borough of Yakutat and city of Metlakatla, Alaska, and providing specimens to Steilacoom High School in Steilacoom, Washington.  Program staff represented the AFSC and provided information to the public at the Fishermen’s Fall Festival, the Pacific Science Center’s Life Sciences Research Weekend, and the Seattle Aquarium’s Volunteer Alumni Reunion.

By Mei-Sun Yang, Troy Buckley, Geoff Lang, Richard Hibpshman, Kimberly Sawyer,
Caroline Robinson and Sean Rohan


Ecosystem Considerations 2015: The Status of Alaska’s Marine Ecosystems

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 2015 eastern Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Report Cards and ecosystem assessments. This year, the report presented a new Gulf of Alaska Report Card and ecosystem assessment. Over 40 experts participated via an online poll in the selection of ecosystem indicators that were included in the report card. The indicator list will be refined over the coming year with participation from the scientists involved with the NPRB-funded Gulf of Alaska Integrated Ecosystem Research Project. Overall, there were 7 new and 51 updated indicator contributions from scientists.

The year 2014 saw many changes in the status of the physical ecosystem indicators. Several climate indicators such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO) showed dramatic shifts. In general, ocean temperatures were warmer than usual over a large area of the Northeast Pacific; this was “The Blob” that received much media attention. Many of the monitored ecosystem indicators indicated increased overall productivity in 2014. For example, groundfish sampled in the bottom trawl survey were heavier per length than average, and seabirds in the Pribilofs produced higher than average numbers of chicks.

During 2015, most of the physical indicators showed the continuation of warm conditions. However, the biological indicators showed mostly average to low productivity. For example, groundfish tended to be of average to low weight per length and seabirds had poor reproductive success.

Presentations on ecosystem status and report contents were given to the Council’s Groundfish Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska Plan Teams in November and to the Scientific and Statistical Committee, Advisory Panel, and the Council itself in December, when the 2016 groundfish quotas were set. The report is now available online at the Ecosystem Considerations website.  

By Stephani Zador

REEM Participates in World Seabird Conference

The second World Seabird Conference was held in Capetown, South Africa, on 26-30 October 2015. The conference followed the highly successful first World Seabird Conference in Victoria, Canada, in 2010. Nearly 600 attendees from 52 countries gathered to present their research and interact with other scientists specializing in seabirds. NOAA’s Office of International Affairs provided financial support for AFSC  scientist Stephani Zador to attend the conference. Stephani presented a talk titled “Comparing indicators of forage fish availability to diets of kittiwakes” and two posters titled “Using seabird bycatch to infer ecosystem impacts of pink salmon” and “Puffins, trawlers, groundfish, and seines: a comparison of four imperfect forage fish samplers over 3500 km of Alaska coast.”  Stephani also participated in a post-conference workshop on “Guidelines and Best Practices to Document Seabird – Fisheries Competition.”

By Stephani Zador

Ecosystem Modeling

The REEM Program hosted a set of workshops on 1-4 December 2015 to develop Rpath, an R-library version of the Ecopath and Ecosim food web modeling software.  This development is a joint project by the Northeast and Alaska Fisheries Science Centers as part of NOAA’s Integrated Ecosystem Assessment Program.  The workshops were devoted to initial user tests of the software and the development of routines for fitting fisheries data to food web models.

By Kerim Aydin



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