Diel Differences in Fish Assemblages in Nearshore Eelgrass and Kelp Habitats in Prince William Sound Alaska
The importance of a particular habitat to nearshore fishes can be best assessed by both diurnal and nocturnal sampling. To determine diel differences in fish assemblages in nearshore eelgrass and under-story kelp habitats, fishes were sampled diurnally and nocturnally at six locations in western Prince William Sound, Alaska, in summer 2007. Abundance of fish between day and night were similar, but species composition and mean size of some fish changed. Species richness and species diversity were similar in eelgrass during the day and night, whereas in kelp, species richness and species diversity were greater at night than during the day. In eelgrass, saffron cod (Eleginus gracilis) was the most abundant species during the day and night. In kelp, the most abundant species were Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) during the day and saffron cod at night. Diel differences in fish size varied by species and habitat. Mean length of saffron cod was similar between day and night in eelgrass but was greatest during the day in kelp. Pacific herring were larger at night than during the day in kelp. Diel sampling is important to identity nearshore habitats essential to fish and help manage fish stocks at risk.
Nearshore vegetated habitats in Alaska support diverse and abundant fish assemblages, and are particularly important for juveniles including several commercially important species such as chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus), pink salmon (O. gorbuscha), and walleye pollock.