Habitat, Age, and Diet of a Forage Fish in Southeastern Alaska: Pacific Sandfish
Forage fish are an important part of Alaska’s marine ecosystems and coastal areas. Forage fish are a criti-cal food source for numerous ground-fish, marine mammals, and seabirds (Wespestad1; Allen and Smith, 1988; Paul et al., 1997; Yang and Nelson, 2000; Mecklenburg et al., 2002). Little is known, however, about the life history characteristics or habitat of many forage fish species in Alaska, including Pacific sandfish (Trichodon trichodon; Fig. 1). Only two articles have been published on the life history characteristics of Pacific sandfish in Alaska. Paul et al. (1997) investigated size-weight-age profiles, size at matu-rity, and fecundity of Pacific sandfish in the northern Gulf of Alaska, and Bailey et al. (1983) examined size and diet of juvenile (<55 mm fork length [FL]) Pacific sandfish in southeastern Alaska. Some Pacific sandfish catch data are also available for the Bering Sea, Prince William Sound, and southeastern Alaska (Isakson et al.,1971; Orsi and Landingham, 1985; Allen and Smith, 1988; Brodeur and Livingston, 1988; Sturdevant et al.2, Orsi et al., 2000). Pacific sandfish burrow into sand, usually at depths shallower than 150 m, and can reach a maximum size of about 300 mm (Marliave, 1980; Mecklenburg et al.,2002).
Pacific sandfish are commonly found in nearshore waters of the southeastern Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. There is no commercial fishery for Pacific sandfish in Alaska, but sailfin sandfish (Arctoscopus ja-ponicus) are commercially fished and cultured in Japan and Korea (Okiya-ma, 1990). In particular, information is scarce on the biology and habitat of Pacific sandfish, especially for southeastern Alaska. Shoreline de-velopment and global climate change (e.g., increased water temperature and sea level) may adversely affect Pacific sandfish populations because of the relatively specialized nearshore spawning sites and one-year incuba-tion period of this species (Marliave, 1980).