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Alaska Sea Grant to Fund $1 Million in Marine Research

Pollock fisheries models, crab genetic studies, sea otter impacts top the list

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
6/8/2010

Fairbanks, Alaska—Alaska Sea Grant will provide $1 million during the next two years to support marine research that includes projects to assess the potential impact of the growing sea otter population in Southeast; develop better pollock fishery management models; and determine the genetic stock structure of red and blue king crab.

Alaska Sea Grant is a partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that conducts marine research, education, communication, and Marine Advisory Program extension throughout coastal Alaska. The program is based at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

Alaska Sea Grant also will fund a host of other studies. These include a study of the abundance of plankton species that are an important food source for juvenile pink salmon in Prince William Sound, and a project to determine whether some small salmon fisheries can be effectively managed at a lower cost by using predetermined fishing periods rather than expensive test fisheries and escapement surveys. The program also will fund development of a marine ecosystem model that monitors patterns of environmental variation to predict sudden ecological change.

The funding announcement comes after a yearlong project submission and review process. Alaska Sea Grant issued a request for proposals in December 2008, and received 33 pre-proposals. Of these, 16 projects were developed into full proposals. Final projects were selected following a proposal review process that included science peers and an advisory panel.

Federal funding for the six projects over the next two years totals approximately $1,000,232. The funding includes money to support graduate students working on these projects.

Alaska Sea Grant also receives federal and state funds to support Marine Advisory Program activities across the state and to conduct marine education and outreach services that include public and scientific workshops, K–12 marine science education, and marine resource publication and video production.

The following research projects will receive funding:

Ecological, economic, and social changes as a result of sea otter recolonization in southern Southeast Alaska

Ginny Eckert, UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, and Sunny Rice, UAF Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program

University and ADFG researchers will investigate the impact of increasing sea otter populations in Southeast on commercially important species including geoduck clams, California sea cucumbers, red sea urchins, and Dungeness crab, in order to evaluate the potential economic and societal impacts of sea otter predation on commercial fishing and fishing-dependent communities. Research partners will conduct aerial surveys to estimate total number of sea otters in the region, the first such survey in decades.

Increased variance as a leading indicator of reorganization in Alaskan marine ecosystems: An empirical test

Michael Litzow, Farallon Institute, and Franz Mueter, UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences

Marine ecosystems may respond to environmental forces with abrupt reorganizations that are economically and socially devastating to Alaska fishing communities. In this study, researchers will conduct a retrospective analysis of crustacean populations with the goal of developing a technique to monitor patterns of change in ecosystem variables that will help predict sudden environmental change. The ability to monitor and predict such change would help Alaska fisheries managers and fishing communities respond to and minimize economic and social disruption.

Identifying red and blue king crab stocks for sustainable harvest and sustainable coastal Alaskan communities

David Tallmon, UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences

In Alaska, multiagency and private efforts are under way to develop the understanding and technology to hatch and raise red and blue king crab, as a means to one day rebuild wild stocks in parts of the state. However, fishery managers lack an important management tool, an understanding of the genetic structure and mating structure of these important wild stocks. Researchers will continue a comprehensive analysis already under way of the genetic structure of Alaska's red and blue king crab stocks.

Low-intensity, low-cost management of salmon fisheries

Milo Adkison, UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences

Conventional in-season management of salmon fisheries uses test fisheries, escapement surveys, and other types of intensive monitoring to determine catch openings and closings. These techniques can be labor-intensive and expensive. Low-intensity management approaches, such as a regular schedule of fisheries openings, may provide satisfactory escapements and harvests at a much lower cost. Researchers in this study will examine the feasibility of fixed-schedule fishery openings as a cost-effective alternative to intensive in-season management methods.

The seasonal and interannual patterns of larvaceans and pteropods in the coastal Gulf of Alaska, and their relationship to pink salmon survival

Russ Hopcroft, UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences

Research has found that juvenile pink salmon prefer to eat two understudied zooplankton groups, larvaceans and thecosome pteropods, and that this diet may be tied to salmon survival and adult returns. In this study, scientists will examine zooplankton collected during previous research to estimate composition, abundance, biomass, and production of larvaceans and pteropods. Additionally, researchers will undertake experimental work to determine the growth rates of the major larvacean and pteropod species, so that their availability to higher trophic levels can be calculated. They also will examine relationships between the production of these zooplankton groups and salmon survival.

Parsimony in integrated age-structured assessment models: Modeling of time-dependent parameters and uncertainty in a changing environment

Terry Quinn, UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences

Without good information and analysis in a stock assessment, major errors in management can occur and not be observed until it is too late to take action. In this project, researchers will continue Sea Grant-funded research to improve and evaluate methods of incorporating uncertainty in integrated age-structured pollock fishery assessment models.

The Alaska Sea Grant College Program is a statewide marine research, education, communication, and extension service at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Alaska Sea Grant is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks and private industry.

The Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program is a statewide university extension and technical assistance program that helps Alaskans wisely use, conserve, and enjoy Alaska's marine and coastal resources.

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