2018 Assessment of the Atka Mackerel Stock in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands
Atka mackerel are a substrate-spawning fish with male parental care. Single or multiple clumps of adhesive eggs are laid on rocky substrates in individual male territories within nesting colonies where males brood eggs for a protracted period. Nesting colonies are widespread across the continental shelf of the Aleutian Islands and western GOA down to bottom depths of 144 m (Lauth et al. 2007b). Historical data from ichthyoplankton tows done on the outer shelf and slope off Kodiak Island in the 1970s and 1980s (Kendall and Dunn 1985) suggest that nesting colonies may have existed at one time in the central GOA. Possible factors limiting the upper and lower depth limit of Atka mackerel nesting habitat include insufficient light penetration and the deleterious effects of unsuitable water temperatures, wave surge, or high densities of kelp and green sea urchins (Gorbunova 1962, Lauth et al. 2007b, Zolotov 1993).
In the eastern and central AI, larvae hatch from October to January with maximum hatching in late November (Lauth et al. 2007a). After hatching, larvae are neustonic and about 10 mm in length (Kendall and Dunn 1985). Along the outer shelf and slope of Kodiak Island, larvae caught in the fall were about 10.3 mm compared to larvae caught the following spring which were about 17.6 mm (Kendall and Dunn 1985). Larvae and fry have been observed in coastal areas and at great distances offshore (>500 km) in the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean (Gorbunova 1962, Materese et al. 2003, Mel’nikow and Efimkin 2003).
The Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS) project studies salmon during their time at the high seas, and has conducted standardized surveys of the upper pelagic layer in the EBS shelf using a surface trawl. In addition to collecting data pertaining to salmon species, BASIS also collected and recorded information for many other Alaskan fish species, including juvenile Atka mackerel. The EBS shelf was sampled during the mid-August through September from 2004 to 2006 and juvenile Atka
mackerel with lengths ranging from 150-200 mm were distributed along the outer shelf in the southern EBS shelf and along the outer middle shelf between St. George and St. Matthew Islands (Appendix B in Lowe et al. 2007). The fate or ecological role of these juveniles is unknown since adult Atka mackerel are much less common or absent in annual standardized bottom trawl surveys in the EBS shelf (Lauth and Acuna 2009).