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Recruitment, Energetics, and Coastal Assessment Program 

Year 3 of The Arctic Coastal Ecosystem Survey

Research Reports
Fall 2014
ABL Reports
FMA Reports
HEPR Reports
NMML Reports
REFM Reports
Complete Rpt. (pdf)
Quarterly Index
Quarterly Home
map of Barrow study area
Figure 1. Arctic Coastal Ecosystem Survey sampling efforts near Barrow, Alaska. Click map to enlarge.

Summer 2014 marked the third year of the Arctic Coastal Ecosystem Survey (ACES), a study of the fish assemblages in the shallow waters near Barrow, Alaska (Fig. 1). The objective of the study is to understand the importance of shallow waters (< 20 m) as rearing habitats for forage fish species in the high Arctic. This is a collaborative effort involving the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Florida International University, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Louisiana State University, the North Slope Borough , Oregon State University, the North Pacific Research Board and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Summer field work involved beach seining at fixed shore stations throughout the ice-free period, trawling at offshore stations, deployment of oceanographic moorings and ADCPs (acoustic Dopplar current profilers), habitat mapping using DIDSON sonar, and collection of zooplankton prey. Laboratory work includes evaluation of the nutritional condition of fish, their diets, and isotopic analysis of fish and zooplankton.

arctic cod
Figure 2. Arctic cod, Boreogadus saida.

Preliminary results reveal interannual variation in the nearshore arctic fish assemblages, with Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) more abundant during cold years and capelin (Mallotus villosus) more abundant during warm years. Shallow-water fish communities are highly variable during the short summer season, with weekly changes in species composition and abundance of beach seine catches. Sculpin (Cottidae) tend to be most abundant early in the summer, with capelin and Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes hexapterus) becoming more common as summer progresses.

Wind-driven changes in the location of various water masses and ontogeny may play a role in these changes. Dominant fish species in beach seine catches in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas were sculpin, Pacific sand lance, and to a lesser-degree capelin, while catches in Elson lagoon were dominated by capelin, sculpin, pricklebacks (Stichaeidae) and ciscoes (Coregoninae).

Zooplankton density was significantly greater in freshwater plumes in the lagoon. Further from shore, age-0 Arctic cod were found in pelagic layers, while age-1+ Arctic cod formed patchy, dense schools (Fig. 2). Several large Arctic cod with mature gametes were caught in the lagoon, which may provide insight to Arctic cod spawning locations which are largely unknown.

We look forward to another field year in 2015, chemical analysis of the catch in 2016, and closing the studies in 2017.

By Ron Heintz and Johanna Vollenweider 



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