What We Do
The Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering (RACE) Division, a division of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, comprises fishery and oceanography research scientists, geneticists, pathobiologists, technicians as well as other specialists and support staff in their ongoing missions to conduct fishery surveys and oceanographic research to measure the distribution and abundance of commercially important fish and crab stocks in the eastern Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska. Additionally tasked with ways to help reduce bycatch and bycatch mortality, the RACE Division uses trend information derived from both ongoing surveys and associated research to analyze current effects of fishing on local marine habitats.
Fisheries Behavioral Ecology Program
This program conducts research aimed at understanding the relationships between fish behavior, environmental variables, both physical and biological and how they may influence the distribution or survival of economically important fish species. Additionally, the program analyses fishing gear performance and attempts to understand the stresses imposed on the fish and surrounding stocks during fishing activity. The overarching goal is to provide critical information needed to help improve stock survival, survey techniques and population abundance and distribution predictions.
Groundfish Assessment Program
This program regularly conducts bottom trawl surveys to assess the condition of groundfish and shellfish stocks in Alaskan marine waters. Key fish species include: walleye "Alaska" pollock, Pacific cod, arrowtooth flounder, yellowfin sole, and rock sole.
These surveys are conducted to establish the distribution and abundance of Alaska groundfish resources in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea Shelf, Bering Sea Slope, and Aleutian Islands. Surveys, various tools and models are used by the program to help further understand fish and crab habitat use.
The Groundfish Assessment Program also investigates biological interactions with the environment to estimate growth, mortality, and recruitment to improve the precision and accuracy of forecasting future stocks.
Midwater Assessment and Conservation Engineering
This program combines midwater trawl surveys with acoustic echo integration technology to assess the population status of Alaska walleye pollock, whose stocks support the largest single commercial fishery in the United States, and Pacific hake stocks in the North Pacific and Bering Seas. Research is also conducted on fishing gear performance and fish behavior during the capture process in order to develop methods that reduce bycatch in commercial fishing operations.
Recruitment Processes Program
This program studies marine ecosystems in the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska and Arctic. In particular, the program studies zooplankton and seeks to understand more about fish development, when fish are in the "nektonic" stage or able to swim freely in the water. Scientists also look at what influences whether or not larval fish survive to the age of "recruitment." Recruitment for commercially fished species occurs when they grow to the size captured or retained by nets or gear currently used in commercial fishing. For each species or ecosystem that we study, we attempt to understand what factors cause or contribute to population fluctuations.
Research Fishing Gear Program
This program helps to manage and develop scientific fishing gear that is used in support of survey research. By designing and testing gear that meats current fishing standards as well as creating experimental approaches, this program hopes to increase overall survival viability and lower bycatch numbers. Some nets may be outfitted with various electronic sensors such as dataloggers that collect depth, temperature and global position information. additionally, camera or video "sleds" may be used to observe overall trawl performance and evaluate equipment for overall success.
Shellfish Assessment Program
Assessment biologists conduct a wide range of research and surveys on various fish, crab and shellfish species to assess the distribution and abundance of various commercially important crab and groundfish resources in the eastern Bering Sea. The collected data is used to both aid the fishing industry in locating productive fishing grounds but also to help improve the viability of future stocks. Studies include: disease, habitat, discard mortality, reproduction, growth, culturing, and affects of ocean acidification.
Since 1990 Jeff has worked in all three of Alaska's large marine ecosystems trying to understand how weather and climate affect the distribution and abundance of zooplankton prey for planktivorous fish, seabirds, and mammals. Jeff has been a tireless champion of research collaborations and initiating new interdisciplinary lines of funding within NOAA for Climate Regimes and Ecosystem Productivity.
A biologist in the Groundfish Assessment Program for 20 years, Michael has spent over 1,000 days at sea and been chief scientist on more than 30 research cruises in both Alaska and the East Coast of the United States. His expertise is in, but not limited to, survey design and population estimation.