Surveying the Depths of the Gulf of Alaska - Post 3

June 05, 2017

This summer our scientists are hoping to prove what biologists have theorized for years – that newly hatched fish use Alaska deep-sea corals as a nursery ground to safely grow.

Albatross

Short-tailed albatrosses.

Second Week of Gulf of Alaska Survey

This week we traveled along the south side of Unalaska and Akutan Islands all the way to Unimak Pass. We spent one night in Morzhovoi Bay seeking refuge from rough seas and high winds.

How We Collect Data

Along the way we collected numerous fish and invertebrate data for the groundfish survey. The team also is testing new technology this year that will help streamline data collection. We record fish lengths and otolith information using tablets in waterproof housings, bluetooth headsets, scanning wands, and keypads. This is a huge improvement over our previous manual method of data collection. So far all of the new equipment appears to be working.

What Are We Seeing?

We encounter many species of flatfish during our survey, but the juvenile northern rock soles have a particularly remarkable color pattern. You can see how they would blend in well with a sandy bottom.

Invertebrates such as crabs, snails, and clams, are present in almost every net. Sometimes we are able to identify them and sometimes we are not. When we can’t identify an invertebrate or fish we preserve it and bring it back to Seattle for further examination. The snail in this image is an example.

Juvenile northern rock sole

Juvenile northern rock sole.

Throughout the trip we’ve seen many interesting seabirds, but the short-tailed albatrosses have been a real treat. We are seeing both adult and sub-adults together.

As we enter our last week, we plan to deploy the larval fish pump a few more times to continue our discovery of larval benthic communities.

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Meet the Bloggers

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Rachel Wilborn is a NOAA Fisheries affiliated biologist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering Division. Her research focuses on what lives at the bottom of the ocean, specifically sponges and corals, and their role as essential fish habitat. Rachel received a bachelor’s degree in oceanography from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in biology from the University of West Florida.

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Pam Goddard is a NOAA Fisheries affiliated biologist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering Division. Her recent work has focused on benthic community structure and the role it plays in essential fish habitat. Pam has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Wheaton College, and a master’s degree in fisheries from the University of Washington.