Alaska has four large marine ecosystems, or ecosystem complexes, each with unique characteristics. The Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea are especially resource-rich and support some of the largest and most valuable commercial fisheries in the world, like Alaska pollock, red king crab, and sablefish. The Gulf of Alaska is shaped by deep-sea gullies, islands, and massive inlets that channel in fresh water and nutrients. The Bering Sea’s unique currents and the annual migration of sea ice from the Arctic provide the right conditions to allow fish like Alaska pollock—the largest sustainable fishery in the world—to flourish. Aleutian Islands marine life is diverse with many species that only exist along the island chain’s span of nearly 1,200 miles. The expansive Arctic Ocean is made up of the north Bering Sea along with the Chukchi and Beaufort seas where you can find marine mammals like bowhead and beluga whales, and bearded and ringed seals.
What We Do
We study Alaska’s marine life to ensure the sustainable use of living marine resources in federal waters. We monitor fish and marine mammal populations that have supported Alaska Native communities for centuries and provided food, income, and recreational enjoyment for millions of people around the world. Effectively studying fish and marine mammals also requires researching their habitats and the relationships between predators and prey. We study Alaska marine ecosystems.
To obtain the best available information scientists use research ships to collect oceanographic and biological samples. We also use airplanes and unmanned aerial systems to collect data in remote areas. We work collaboratively with the fishing industry to collect information on how much fish is caught each year in commercial operations and recreationally. We then input collected data into sophisticated models to help predict future fish stock size. Fishery managers use our data to set sustainable catch limits and protect whales, seals, and sea lions in Alaska.
Our Five Primary Divisions
The headquarters of the Auke Bay Laboratory is the Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute. This division consists of four main programs which conduct scientific research throughout Alaska on commercially marketable species such as rockfish, sablefish, and salmon, and on all aspects of marine ecosystems such as ocean physics and chemistry essential to fish habitats, and the structure and functioning of marine food webs. Information products are provided to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the NMFS Alaska Regional Office, fishing industries, state and federal regulators, and international treaty bodies.
This division monitors groundfish fishing activities in the United States exclusive economic zone off Alaska. Associated research includes sampling commercial fishery catches, estimating catch and bycatch mortality, and analysis of fishery-dependent data. The division is responsible for training, briefing, debriefing, and overseeing observers who collect catch data onboard fishing vessels and at onshore processing plants, and for quality control/quality assurance of observer data.
The laboratory conducts research on marine mammals, primarily off the coasts of Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. Information is provided to various U.S. governmental and international organizations to assist in developing rational and appropriate management regimes for marine resources under NOAA's jurisdiction.
The division conducts fisheries surveys to measure the distribution and abundance of approximately 40 commercially important fish and crab stocks.
The division collects data to support management of Northeast Pacific and eastern Bering Sea fish and crab resources. Stock assessments are developed annually and used to set catch quotas. Division scientists also evaluate how fish stocks and user groups might be affected by fisheries management actions.
There are also two offices that provide support and oversight for the Center:
Office of Management and Information Services Division
This office supports the day-to-day administrative and business operations of the Center, including overseeing administrative services, budget formulation and execution, acquisition and grants management, workforce management, communications, safety and environmental compliance, and facilities operations.
Office of Fisheries Information Systems
This office provides technical support and development services for the Center’s IT enterprise.
The officer is similar to a “Chief of Staff” responsible for program management and development of strategic initiatives, including participating as a member of the Senior Executive Team and overseeing the annual Science Planning and Implementation Processes.
Douglas P. DeMaster, Ph.D.
Douglas DeMaster became Director of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in October 2001. Recognized as one of the leading experts on marine mammal stock assessment and marine mammal–fishery interactions, he has published 100 peer-reviewed publications on marine mammals and an additional 38 reports related to the population ecology of marine mammals. Doug also contributed to developing management strategies for marine mammals in the United States under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.
Jeremy D. Rusin
Jeremy Rusin is Deputy Director of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Jeremy joined NOAA Fisheries in 2003 working on fisheries management and implementation of the International Dolphin Conservation Program in the former Southwest Regional Office. Since 2005, Jeremy served as Deputy Director for two research divisions – Protected Resources and for Antarctic Ecosystem Research – at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Jeremy earned a B.S. in Biology from Davidson College and a Master’s in Marine Affairs from the University of Washington.
Auke Bay Laboratory
The Auke Bay Laboratory is headquartered at the Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute. This "green" facility, which includes 66,000 square feet of office space and 33,000 square feet of lab space, is located at Lena Point, north of Juneau, Alaska. Other facilities include: Auke Bay Marine Station – Auke Bay, Juneau AK, the Auke Creek Research Station – Auke Creek, Juneau, AK, Juneau Subport and Dock – downtown Juneau, AK, Little Port Walter Marine Station – on southern Baranof Island and Pribilof Island facilities – Bering Sea, AK..
The 25, 000 square foot Kodiak Laboratory is part of the Kodiak Fisheries Research Center owned by the Kodiak Island Borough. The Center was designed with state-of-the-art seawater and necropsy labs and is home to a multi-agency marine research facility. Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering scientists for both Shellfish and Groundfish Assessment Programs conduct field and laboratory research on the abundance and distribution of marine invertebrate and fish populations, their life history, population dynamics, habitats, ecological interactions, and impacts of human activities such as bycatch, discard mortality, and habitat alteration. Scientists also provide information necessary to conserve, protect, and manage economically important Alaskan shellfish resources, including king, Tanner, and snow crabs, for the benefit of the nation. NOAA Fisheries W.F. Thompson Memorial Library (1800 sq ft) is housed here.
The Alaska Fisheries Science Center's Fisheries Behavioral Ecology Program is located at the Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon. The Hatfield Marine Science Center was created to serve the scientific needs of various organizations and government agencies and includes the Oregon State University building constructed in 1965 and the NOAA facilities which were completed in 1981. NOAA and Oregon State University staff at the Hatfield Center are currently located in two Federal government-owned buildings which are managed by the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. The Fisheries Behavioral Ecology Program conducts laboratory research on the behavioral responses of commercially important marine fishes to environmental factors that are critical to controlling distribution and survival from egg to adult. Research also focuses on defining the factors which affect postcapture survival and mortality of fish that are caught as bycatch. The experimental laboratories consist of more than 17,000 cubic feet of tank space housed in over 18,000 square feet of wet laboratory space supplied with 500 gallons per minute of high quality seawater, 200 gallons per minute of which can be chilled to 3° C. Species of current interest include walleye pollock, sablefish, and Pacific halibut.