2022 Alaska Fisheries Science Center Year In Review
Looking back while moving foward.
Big Year Advancing our Strategic Goals
Goal 1: Monitor and Assess Fish, Crab and Marine Mammal Populations, Fisheries and Marine Ecosystems
Goal 2: Investigate, Model and Predict Ecosystem and Climate Impacts on Living Marine Resources
Goal 3: Advance New Initiatives and Innovation
Fiscal Year 2023 - 2027 Strategic Science Plan
Vision: To be scientific leaders for the stewardship of living marine resources in the U.S. federal waters of Alaska with a steadfast commitment to provide stakeholders with the information necessary to address ecosystem and resource management challenges now and into the future.
Mission: To provide science and services in support of productive and sustainable fisheries, recovery and conservation of protected resources, and healthy ecosystems in the marine waters of Alaska.
Core Values & Organizational Excellence Commitments: The overarching goal is to achieve the highest standards of integrity, transparency, and service in all Alaska Fisheries Science Center operations so that we may succeed in carrying out our mission.
Auke Bay Laboratories
Fiscal Year 2022 Accomplishments
Marine Ecology and Stock Assessment Program
- Successfully implemented the 2022 Alaska Fisheries Science Center Longline Survey.
- Sampled 158 locations in the Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska over 3 months.
Recruitment, Energetics, and Coastal Assessment Program
- Lead 5-year funding renewal of Gulf Watch Alaska Long-term Ecosystem Research and Monitoring Program.
- $20 million program with 16 projects and 35 Principal Investigators, representing 14 different organizations.
- Completed 8th consecutive year of community-based research with Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association, and Emmonak and Alukanuk fishermen.
- Determine abundance and condition of out-migrating salmon and factors contributing to population declines.
- Worked with partners to complete a multi-year investigation of juvenile Pacific cod abundance in Gulf of Alaska.
- Validate and enhance an individual-based model of larval cod distribution and settlement.
Ecosystem Monitoring and Assessment Program
- Conducted 5 integrated ecosystem surveys in Alaska.
- Data collected informed International Year of the Salmon Synthesis Symposium discussions
- Used to characterize the impact of climate variability and loss of seasonal sea ice on Alaska’s large marine ecosystems.
- Collaborative research with State, stakeholders and international partners on Yukon and Kuskokwim River chum and Chinook salmon declines was considered in North Pacific Fishery Management Council and other discussions.
- Provide insights into climate impacts during critical marine life history stages of salmon.
- Advancements in Understanding Stock-Specific Impacts of Salmon Bycatch
- Improved turnaround time for producing stock composition estimates by nearly a year.
- Presented these more timely estimates at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in June.
- Using environmental DNA for Ecosystem Monitoring
- Collected environmental DNA samples in Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands deep sea habitats to determine if environmental DNA is useful to characterize areas where traditional surveys are not able to sample. (e.g., untrawlable habitat)
- Analysis of previously collected samples from coastal Southeast Alaska, Prince William Sound, and Bering Sea demonstrated that environmental DNA can detect differences in fish communities across habitats and geographic areas — demonstrating the utility of this approach for ecosystem monitoring.
Little Port Walter Education and Research
- Provided research and educational opportunities: 3 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hollings Scholars, 1 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions Scholar, 2 Alaska Sea Grant Fellows, 3 graduate students, 1 undergraduate intern, 2 external visiting scientists, 3 volunteers, 3 contractors, 15 National Marine Fisheries Service scientists, and 2 National Ocean Service scientists.
- Conducted 9 research projects to support fisheries management:
- Develop spectroscopy tools to rapidly assess critical life history and energetic responses of groundfish to environmental change.
- Pacific Salmon Treaty management of Chinook salmon.
- Minimize unintended interactions between herring and commercial kelp farms.
- Develop an ocean-type broodstock of Chinook salmon for Alaska.
- Effects of thiamine deficiency on early life stage survival in salmon.
- Assess levels of mercury in returning adult Chinook and pink salmon.
- Quantify concentrations of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance compounds (group of manufactured chemicals) in returning adult coho and pink salmon.
- Understand domestication selection in Chinook salmon using whole genome sequencing.
- Understand changes in salmon phenology due to climate change.
Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis
- 30,748 observer deployment days
(vessels and plants)
- 363 observers deployed
- 503 stomachs collected
- 38,344 otoliths collected
- 913,744 fish measured from 59 species
- 349 boats observed
- 11 plants observed
- 131 fixed gear boats with Electronic Monitoring that completed a trip
- 73 trawl boats with Electronic Monitoring (Electronic Monitoring Exempted Fishing Permit)
- 552 debriefings conducted, inclusive of 39,745 hauls and 101,581 samples debriefed
- Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis inspected 58 Catcher Processor vessels, which encompassed 130 sample stations, video monitoring, and deck safety inspections
- 20 cold water survival refresher trainings
- 10 3-week initial observer trainings
Marine Mammal Laboratory
Fiscal Year 2022 Accomplishments
Alaska Ecosystems Program
- Installed Remote Camera Systems to Monitor Vital Rates at Gulf of Alaska and eastern Aleutian Island sea lion rookeries.
- 6 scientists successfully installed 13 cameras at Sugarloaf Island (2), Ugamak Island (10) and Round Island (1) June 22- July 10.
- 12 scientists chartered the Tiglax to survey central and western Aleutian Islands’ sea lion rookeries.
- The group captured and branded 100 sea lion pups for vital rates studies, collected observations of previously marked animals, used a small hexacopter to capture aerial images, and downloaded over 1 million images from 27 remote cameras, not visited since 2019.
- Completed an aerial survey of eastern and central Aleutian Islands rookeries.
- Surveyed 82 unique sites, collected over 8,000 high-resolution images.
- In August, 18 scientists assessed Pribilof Islands northern fur seal population.
- Used uncrewed aerial vehicles to photograph fur seals (>34 hours of flight time & 144 flights) to collect >34,000 images
- Captured and temporarily marked >9,000 pups for mark and recapture studies.
- In late September, 15 scientists worked with Tribal Government of Saint Paul Island to teach 7 Island scientists capture and tagging methods.
- 68 very high frequency tags deployed on adult females.
- 16 additional tags were deployed on Saint George Island.
- Over 1,100 pups were tagged on both islands.
Polar Ecosystems Program
- Research expedition to study ribbon and spotted seals at southern edge of Bering Sea marginal ice zone.
- Captured 3 male spotted seal pups, 1 adult male spotted seal, and 1 adult female ribbon seal and her pup; small sample, shorter survey (18-days versus 28).
- Adults instrumented with satellite data recorders to track their seasonal movements and diving behaviors.
- Data can help us learn more about seal ecology, to develop correction factors for future ice seal abundance surveys.
- Completed fieldwork to develop and test method to remotely study Alaskan seal body condition using unmanned aircraft systems.
- Together with partners used a unmanned aircraft systems in the Arctic to accurately estimate mass and various dimensions of seals hauled out on sea ice.
- Completed harbor seal aerial photographic surveys in Bristol Bay, Prince William Sound, and Southeast Alaska using standard oblique photography.
- Survey spanned 44 days with 24 days of flying and 18,000 km of survey flights.
- Surveys extend a decades-long time series of seal abundance allowing for continued tracking of population health and, as a keystone predator, the health of the coastal ecosystem.
- Developed a 6-camera sensor payload and integrated it into a long-range uncrewed aircraft operated by partners at National Aeronautics and Space Administration for use in surveying pinnipeds in the remote western Aleutian Islands.
Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program
- Completed aerial surveys to provide new abundance estimates for two key beluga stocks: the endangered Cook Inlet beluga stock and Eastern Bering Sea beluga stock, Alaska Native subsistence resource.
- Expanded passive acoustics recorder array to better understand cetacean seasonal distribution in areas where North Pacific right whales may overlap with shipping and fishing activities in Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.
- Completed 1st of a 2-year project to understand whether pingers are effective in deterring harbor porpoise to help reduce commercial fisheries porpoise bycatch.
- Bureau of Ocean Energy Management funded project with WildMe used crowdsourcing and artificial intelligence to help automate individual identifications of Cook Inlet beluga
- Expect to dramatically reduce manual labor required to process images and facilitate understanding of both beluga abundance and ecology.
California Current Ecosystems Program
- Completed 1st coordinated coastwide Pacific Coast Feeding Group gray whale survey with academic institutions, Makah tribe, non-profit groups, and Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
- In 10 days, covered 298 nautical miles from west coast of British Columbia to North California documenting as many whales as possible.
- Whale photos used in mark-recapture models to estimate abundance of this unique subgroup of gray whales that are summer residents off the west coast.
- Deployed satellite tags on juvenile California sea lions at San Miguel and San Nicolas islands to compare habitat use at 2 largest colonies of California sea lions.
- 1st comparative study of juvenile behavior. Goal: to describe habitat use and potential overlap with fisheries around the islands to understand resource competition and entanglement of juveniles in fishing gear.
- Preliminary data indicates that juveniles from the 2 colonies spend most time around the islands sharing habitat in greater Southern California Bight.
- Several juveniles made long trips as far north as Monterey Bay and
Farallon Islands, some foraged in areas overlapping with local fisheries.
- Marked 242 fur seal and sea lion pups at San Miguel Island continuing
45-year survival and reproduction studies that have documented
significant shifts in vital rates with climate events.
Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management
Fiscal Year 2022 Accomplishments
18 full Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish assessments
3 Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab assessments
1 statewide (sablefish)
8 full Gulf of Alaska groundfish assessments
9,480 stomachs analyzed in food habit lab
1,726 at sea scans completed
8 workshops and 84 ethnographic interviews
14 Annual Community Engagement and Participation Overview community sketches
387 Environmental Data Record forms were collected
3 Ecosystem Status Reports: Eastern Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, Gulf of Alaska
143 Alaska communities assessed for fisheries participation and social vulnerability and resilience: 103 communities for groundfish and 40 communities for crab
One new crab Ecosystem and Socioeconomic Profile (snow crab) and updated two others (Saint Matthews blue and Bristol Bay red king crab).
Status of Stocks and Multispecies Assessment Program
- Progress developing Gulf of Alaska Climate Integrated Modeling Project, Gulf of Alaska version of Alaska Climate Integrated Modeling Project.
- Completed a successful Center for Independent Experts review for Bering Sea Pacific ocean perch.
- Several proposals linking climate to productivity and harvest control rules were funded or significant progress was made executing them.
- Successful handoff of assessment responsibilities due to retirements and departures.
- Status of Stocks and Multispecies Assessment provided sound science in the face of stark drops in resource abundance of crab stocks, and effectively interfaced with the public.
Resource Ecology and Ecosystem Modeling Program
- Successfully completed MAPP (Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections) Bering Seasons project: a 3 year effort to develop operational oceanographic hindcasting and near-term forecasting for eastern Bering Sea, for use in stock assessments, ecosystem assessments, public information and for other operational needs.
- Obtained funding from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Integrated Ecosystem Assessment program to make 2 year operational updates for the next 3 years.
- Updates beneficial to Council processes in September 2020 when survey cancellations limited water temperature data collection.
- Tools for data exploration were developed and rolled out to stock assessment authors and other users.
- Developed improved calculation methods for delivering groundfish food habits data to stock assessment authors (including Ecosystem Status Reports and Ecosystem and Socioeconomic Profiles)
- Initial example was used for Bering Sea snow crab.
Age and Growth Program
- 31,720 ages for inclusion in stock assessments.
- Continued to lead national strategic initiative for using Fourier Transform Near-Infrared Spectroscopy.
- Successfully competing for funds to help initiate artificial intelligence machine learning to coincide with Fourier Transform Near-Infrared Spectroscopy.
- Several papers ground-truthing these new approaches were published.
Economic and Social Sciences Research
- Improved seafood price forecasts (now-casting) and adjusted timing of Economic and Social Sciences Research’s social science product delivery to Scientific and Statistical Committee and Council to increase its relevance to decision-making.
- Successfully updated regional economic model (the 10MRSAM mode) and associated webtool.
- Worked with Alaska Legislative staff to hold a hearing on climate change impacts on fisheries in the Alaska House Fisheries Committee.
- Collaborated to produce the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries’ Draft Strategy for Advancing Equity and Environmental Justice (currently in public review phase).
- Contributed to National Strategy for the Arctic Region focusing on 4 pillars over the next decade: security, the environment, sustainable economic development, and international governance. Launched in October 2022.
- Participated in Provisional Scientific Coordinating Group under Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in Central Arctic Ocean.
Research Assessment and Conservation Engineering
Fiscal Year 2022 Accomplishments
Fisheries Behavioral Ecology Program
- Surveyed nearshore habitats to examine recruitment patterns of juvenile Pacific cod in central Gulf of Alaska.
- 64 beach seine hauls to assess abundance of age-0 fish and 40 camera deployments to assess the abundance of age-1 cod.
- Observations are part of a time-series providing 1st indicator of potential recruitment in this important fishery.
- Examined the impacts of ocean acidification on early life stages of yellowfin sole and Pacific cod.
- Experiments exposed sensitive eggs and larvae to elevated CO2 levels and temperatures, tracking impacts on survival, development and physiological processes including metabolic rates and gene expression.
- Work is central to evaluating the risk to Alaska fisheries from co-occurring aspects of climate change.
Groundfish Assessment Program
- 2 charter vessels
- 130 Days-at-Sea
- 398 stations successfully trawled
- 19 Special Collections
- 7,641 otolith pairs from 16 groundfish species
- 97,394 lengths from 43 groundfish species
- 885 stomachs collected
- 1,726 stomachs scanned
Other Groundfish Assessment Programs
- 155 searches executed on public-facing Fisheries One Stop Shop database
- 792 Conductivity, temperature and depth casts from the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands
- 2 charter vessels
- 186 Days-at-Sea
- 520 stations successfully trawled
- 30 special collections
- 8,341 otolith pairs collected from 10 groundfish species
- 186,968 lengths collected from 28 groundfish species
- 4,233 stomachs collected
- 361 fat meter scans for fish condition research
- 146 blood samples collected for fish physiology research
Midwater Assessment and Conservation Engineering
2022 Midwater Assessment and Conservation Engineering Acoustic-Trawl Surveys
- 95 trawls hauls
- 32 hours of total trawling time
- 33,422 fish measured from 56 species or groups
- 3,373 pollock otoliths taken
- 78 species or groups caught
- 5,249 nautical mile transect distance
- 1,574,700 pings on transect (approximate based on nominal ping rates)
- 1,025,477 Camtrawl images collected
- 2,588 TB GB of EK80 acoustic data collected
- 426 person Days-at-Sea (Full Time Employees + AIS people x Days-at-Sea)
- 1,240 Shelter-in-Place hours for Midwater Assessment and Conservation Engineering and 494 AIS Shelter-in-Place hours
Evaluating the use of a motorized Uncrewed Surface Vehicle to work in tandem with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ships
- In 2022, initial testing of DriX Uncrewed Surface Vehicle, training, and logistical planning for deployments in Gulf of Alaska in 2023
- Same area can be surveyed in 40% less time than by a ship working alone.
Bycatch Reduction Studies
- Over 150 hours of video reviewed to evaluate salmon excluders to consider salmon behavior and identify ways to improve design and use of these bycatch reduction devices.
- Over 20,000 annotations completed to develop machine learning models to automatically detect salmon in trawl video.
- Over 450 hours of video reviewed to evaluate snow crab behavior relative to pot modifications to reduce discard of undersized males in the target fishery.
- Conducted collaborative workshop with 50 attendees bring together fishermen, technology developers and funders.
Recruitment Processes Program
- 136 person sea days over 4 surveys
- 256 zooplankton samples collected
- 139 ichthyoplankton samples collected
- 17 special requests for additional samples from plankton sampling gear
- 1,476 sablefish larvae processed as part of a funded North Pacific Research Board project
Ecosystems and Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations/ Recruitment Processes Alliance Phytoplankton Team
- 8 surveys (3 Gulf of Alaska, 1 Chukchi, 4 Bering) to sample phytoplankton in the Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea and Gulf of Alaska.
- 1st year of sampling for phytoplankton taxa using an imaging flow cytobot (phytoplankton imager).
Ecosystems and Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations Zooplankton Team
- Developed 2 Ecosystem Status Reports used to describe ecosystem state and contribute metrics to stock assessments
- Continued development of imaging technology for zooplankton identification, presented results at North Pacific Marine Science Organization 2022.
- Zooplankton data were used in multiple publications.
- Measured more than 3,500 individual copepods for North Pacific Research Board size project.
Ecosystems and Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations Ichthyoplankton Team
- Overcame a backlog in data for 1st time since 2017; able to update western Gulf of Alaska spring larval time series for 12 species in Ecosystem Status Report.
- Used Openscapes framework to document data analysis steps required to generate Ecosystem Status Report and Ecosystem and Socioeconomic Profile indices.
- Various Ecosystems Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations data used in Ecosystem Status Reports and Ecosystem and Socioeconomic Profiles.
- Executed sablefish rearing experiments as part of a funded North Pacific Research Board project at two different facilities to assess factors that influence early survival and subsequent recruitment potential.
Research Fishing Gear Program
- Net Loft repaired and certified 30 nets supporting Alaska Fisheries Science Center research surveys.
- Arranged all transportation logistics of trawl gear, assisted in field set up and break down of trawl gear.
- Created new training programs.
- Manufactured skates (gear) to conduct Longline survey.
- Inspected Midwater Assessments and Conservation Engineering and Ecosystem Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations midwater trawls and Beam trawls.
- Supporting Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering gear modernization
- Will be heavily involved in testing new materials.
Shellfish Assessment Program
- 163 days at sea on the eastern and northern Bering Sea.
- 520 hauls (376 eastern Bering Sea, 144 northern Bering Sea)
- 39,477 (26,235 eastern Bering Sea, 13,242 northern Bering Sea) crab measured.
- 13 special projects during survey
- Bitter crab syndrome
- 347 snow crab hemolymph samples collected to monitor the prevalence of bitter crab syndrome in the eastern Bering Sea.
- Black eye disease
- Special collections: Tanner and snow crab, including juvenile snow crab that had prevalence of bitter crab syndrome.
- Movement coordinates were generated for 171 Bristol Bay red king crab using pop up satellite tags in collaboration with Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation.
Kodiak saltwater lab and Local field work
- 3 Ocean Acidification experiments, exposing 312 animals to experimental treatments, and did measurements on 2,546 snow crabs embryos.
- Held 180 Tanner and snow crab to be conditioned for experiments this winter.
- Ran 54 mating trials with Norton Sound red king crab to understand male size at maturity and fertilization success over multiple matings.
- Conducted sampling and surveying via Research Vessel Eagle and Research Vessel Nudibranch.
- Surveys focused specifically around the kelp farms to include dive operations.
- Housed the Blue Evolution hatchery in the cold rooms, which produced sugar kelp, and ribbon kelp for Alaskan kelp farms.
Alaska Coral and Sponge Initiative
Alaska Coral and Sponge Initiative - Surveys extended over 47 days from international seamounts off Washington coast and Vancouver Island, Canada, to east of Chirikof Island, Alaska.
- Southeast Alaska Coral Settlement Plate Collection and Deployment Survey with Alaska Department of Fish and Game; used Remotely Operated Vehicles, Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures settlement arrays to create coral habitat.
- Gulf of Alaska Coral and Sponge Model Validation Survey; 226 stereo camera deployments with paired environmental DNA samples; ~ 226,000 stereo images collected; ~ 203,400 stereo images for annotation of substrate, corals, sponges, and fish.
- Canada-US Joint International Seamount Survey; 14 Days-at-Sea; 5 seamounts explored (Eickelberg, Warwick, Corn, Cobb, Brown Bear) 3 of these for 1st time; 76 valid stereo camera deployments; ~ 76,000 stereo images collected; ~ 68,400 stereo images for annotation
- TOTALS: 271,800 images for annotation; 6 Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures deployed & 1 retrieved; ~270 environmental DNA samples collected
- Secured $280,330 from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Aquaculture and Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.
- Test methods to deter Pacific herring from aquaculture infrastructure.
- Develop capacity for ecosystem monitoring efforts around oyster farms and biotoxin monitoring using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays.
- Conduct spatial analyses using century-old kelp survey maps to determine ecosystem change over past 100 years.
- Developed the Alaska Fisheries Science Center Aquaculture Strategic Science Plan to guide Alaska Fisheries Science Center aquaculture research priorities for next 5 years.
- Conducted extensive outreach to help promote nascent industry in Alaska.