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Habitat And Ecological Processes Research In Alaska

The Habitat and Ecological Processes Research Program develops scientific research that supports implementation of an ecosystem approach to fishery management.

Boat on the water with a mountain in the background

The Habitat and Ecological Processes Research Program focuses on integrated studies that combine scientific capabilities and create comprehensive research on habitat and ecological processes. The HEPR Program focuses on four main research areas.

Loss of Sea Ice

Climate change is causing loss of sea ice in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Addressing ecosystem-related shifts is critical for fisheries management, because nationally important Bering Sea commercial fisheries are located primarily within the southeastern Bering Sea, and for successful co-management of marine mammals, which at least thirty Alaska Native communities depend on.

Essential Fish Habitat

Alaska has more than 50 percent of the U.S. coastline and leads the Nation in fish habitat area and value of fish harvested, yet large gaps exist in our knowledge of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) in Alaska.

Major research needs are

  1. to identify habitats that contribute most to the survival, growth, and productivity of managed fish and shellfish species; and
  2.  to determine how to best manage and protect these habitats from human disturbance and environmental change.

Project selection for EFH research is based on research priorities from the EFH Research Implementation Plan for Alaska. Around $300,000 is spent on about six EFH research projects each year. Project results are described in annual reports and the peer-reviewed literature. Study results contribute to existing Essential Fish Habitat data sets.