Habitat and Ecological Processes Research Regarding the 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.

Ice Seal, Spotted Seal.

Spotted Seal.

Groundfish and crab of the entire eastern Bering Sea shelf survey map

Bering Sea Shelf Surveys

Groundfish and crab of the entire eastern Bering Sea shelf were surveyed in 2010, the first time in 20 years that the northern part had been surveyed. The 2010 northern Bering Sea survey, combined together with existing standard surveys, produced the most comprehensive survey of ocean conditions, plankton, fish and crab of the eastern Bering Sea shelf to date. These surveys also provide abundance and distribution information for some fish and crab species that are prey of ice seals. Repetition of the northern Bering Sea bottom trawl survey occurred in 2017 and is planned for 2019. Surveys of pelagic fish of the northern Bering Sea were conducted in 2015 and 2016 and are planned for 2018.

Aerial Abundance Surveys

Aerial abundance surveys of ice seals of the Bering and Okhotsk Seas were completed during 2012-2013 and of the Chukchi and East Siberian seas in 2016. Ice seal surveys previously were conducted in limited areas of the Bering Sea in 2007 and 2008. A survey of ice seals in the Beaufort Sea is needed.

Oceanography, plankton, demersal and pelagic fish of the eastern Chukchi Sea shelf survey map.

Plankton, Demersal & Pelagic Fish Surveys

Surveys for oceanography, plankton, demersal and pelagic fish of the eastern Chukchi Sea shelf were completed in 2012 and 2013 by the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This survey was funded by NOAA and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). This is the first standard, shelf-wide survey in 20 (northern part) and 35 (southern part) years.

Loss of Sea Ice funds also supports a research scientist who specializes in multispecies stock assessment models that incorporate climate projections. The purpose is to develop sustainable fishing strategies for the eastern Bering Sea for future scenarios of reduced sea ice.

Additional Resources