We just got back from Kodiak, Alaska after a successful week of surveying for young-of-the-year Pacific cod. Juvenile Pacific cod only use the nearshore for a short period in the summer and early fall before migrating into deeper water and joining the older population. It gives us a rare opportunity to use small boats and beach seines to access what is otherwise considered an offshore marine fish species. Great weather in the summer can make the work very enjoyable, especially when it takes you into the beautiful bays around Kodiak Island and the Alaskan peninsula!
The first indications from our survey seem promising----temperatures were near normal and juvenile Pacific cod were much more abundant compared to the 2014-16 ‘Warm Blob’ years. We also used underwater video cameras to survey deeper coastal water (30’) for the abundant 2017 year class from last year (now age-1 juveniles). (Stay tuned as we hope to have some of that video analyzed soon).
At the end of the survey, we also were able to collect ~120 live juveniles and ship them back to our lab in Newport. Fish were packed into plastic bags filled with 100% oxygen and transported by air cargo in insulated coolers. Those fish should be arriving today and will be held in the laboratory for use in a series of bioenergetic (study of fish metabolism, energy transfer) experiments in the fall and winter.
We will return to Kodiak again in late August for one more survey of Kodiak. Our colleagues from University of Alaska Fairbanks also will be getting back from their survey of the Southwest Kodiak and the Western Alaska Peninsula. Together, these data should provide us a more comprehensive assessment of pre-recruiting fish (number of fish that may contribute to future adult population) and potential recovery of Pacific cod stocks in the Gulf of Alaska.
Meet the Blogger
Ben Laurel has more than 20 years of experience studying early life stages of cold-water commercial fish species. He currently leads several field and laboratory research projects involving graduate students and technical staff at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center lab in Newport, Oregon. Ben began his science career as graduate student in Newfoundland, Canada following the collapse of the Atlantic cod fishery. He now is very interested in Pacific cod and how this species is responding to rapidly changing environmental conditions in Alaskan waters.
In his free time, Ben and his family love to adventure in Oregon and Alaska.