Coupling Fisher Behavior with the System that Drives it: Using Vessel Monitoring System Data to Track Fishing Characteristics in Bering Sea Fishery for Walleye Pollock
In the last two decades, the Bering Sea Pollock fleet has seen many changes, including the creation of catch shares, spatial closures for Steller sea lion conservation and salmon bycatch protection, and the development of a hard cap and incentive measures to reduce Chinook bycatch. Meanwhile, numerous studies have either examined or predicted large-scale changes in the Alaska marine ecosystems as a result of regime shifts and longer-term changes in climate. Using observer, fish ticket, and vessel monitoring system data, we reconstructed the paths of nearly 50,000 trips made by catcher vessels that fished for Pollock in the Bering Sea from 2003 - 2013. We divided fishing trips into those targeting Pollock in the Bering Sea or those targeting other species or other regions of the North Pacific. By then characterizing trip durations and distances, we were able to quantify catch per unit effort (CPUE) for observed and unobserved fishing trips, as well as vessels’ time and distance traveled from port. This fisher-centric effort was compared with the stock-centric version of CPUE, which bases effort on haul durations instead of trip durations, to better understand how these factors are related over time. We were also able to examine the impact of warm and cold years on vessel behavior, and how targeting behaviors varied with changing economic conditions, bycatch, and total allowable catch (TAC).
The average age of state fishery permit holders in Alaska has increased by 10 years within the past few decades. Older people are retaining permits, and far fewer young people are becoming permit owners. We report here on our findings from a mixed methods ethnographic study of the dynamics creating this “graying of the fleet.” Specifically we will report on our efforts to: 1) document and compare barriers to entry into, and upward mobility within, fisheries among youth and young fishery participants in the Bristol Bay and Kodiak regions; 2) examine the factors influencing young people’s attitudes towards, and level of participation in, Alaska fisheries; 3) identify models of successful pathways to establishing fishing careers among young residents; and 4) identify potential policy responses to address the graying of the fleet and develop specific recommendations consistent with state and federal legal frameworks.
How Climate Change is Affecting Alaska Fisheries and How Industry and Fisheries Dependent Communities Can Adapt
In recent years a great deal of research has focused on specific oceanographic and marine biological effects of the changing atmospheric and oceanic climate. Results of this research suggest that profound changes are coming to the species that support Alaska’s commercial fisheries, and understandably the industry and the public are concerned. To date, however, few actual impacts have been documented.
This report summarizes and synthesizes the current state of knowledge on effects of long-term climate change on fisheries. It addresses temperature and currents, invasive species, hazardous algal blooms, disease causing pathogens, ocean acidification, and changes to fisheries resource abundance, distribution and behaviors. Since relatively few significant fisheries affects have been recorded in Alaska waters, the report also looks at changes in the Pacific Northwest states and British Columbia, where temperatures are higher and consequences more dramatic. And it looks at effects of transitory climate phenomena in Alaska waters, including El Nino and oceanic regime shift probably related to PDO. These observations and those from the Northwest provide indications of what long-term warming in the North Pacific and Bering Sea will bring to Alaska’s fisheries.
This report also explores adaptive strategies and measures that individuals, communities and the industry can apply to lessen the impact and possibly even benefit from coming changes. These adaptations can be technological, operational and financial. The intent of this presentation is to promote discussion among stakeholders about planning effective adaptation.
Captain Rick will discuss innovations in increased utilization of fish from firsthand exposure with Icelandic groups and US based consultants of innovative “cluster- house” organizations. These models are directly applicable to improving sustainability and food security in the Alaskan fisheries as climate change affects these precious resources in our heat stressed ocean.
Evaluating the Efficacy of Trawl Exclusion Zones for Protecting Steller Sea Lion Groundfish Prey: Examining Local Fish Abundance and Movement Around Steller Sea Lion Rookeries
Groundfish stocks in Alaska are managed at large scales, however important ecological interactions, such as predation, spawning and habitat selection occur on local scales. Furthermore, commercial fishing is an activity with potential for localized effects. Improved understanding of the local abundance of fish is critical to understanding the potential for localized depletion by fishing. In 1997, the western stock of the Steller sea lion population has been declared endangered. One of the hypotheses for this decline was competition between the commercial groundfish fishery and Steller sea lions for prey. In order to understand the effects of fishing on a local scale, we need to assess abundance and distribution of the prey fields in local areas.
This study assesses Steller sea lion prey distribution around rookeries and haulouts in the Aleutian Islands in the summer and winter. A multi-year tagging study examined the movement and abundance of Atka mackerel relative to trawl exclusion zones. In addition, catch per unit effort indices during a NMFS chartered research cruise were used to examine small scale patterns in prey composition of Steller sea lion prey, Pacific cod, rockfish and pollock. Distribution patterns differed on a local scale in areas near Steller sea lion rookeries. This study represents a multi- year multi- area effort to improve our understanding of interactions between sea lions, their prey, and the commercial fishery.
Plankton Population Variability Determined From a Ship of Opportunity Transect Through the Aleutians
Continuous Plankton Recorders have been towed behind commercial ships on their transit from the north American west coast to Asia, a great circle route which transits through the Aleutian Islands. The ship almost always enters through Unimak Pass, with the western exit being more variable but usually around Agattu or Attu Islands. Sampling began in 2000 and since 2002 has sampled spring, summer and fall each year. The data collected provide taxonomically resolved abundance information on the base of the food chain, specifically hard-shelled phytoplankton and robust zooplankton. For the last 10 years the CPR has been instrumented to also collect temperature, salinity and chlorophyll fluorescence data along the transect. With a 16 year plankton time series now available, which includes warm and cool years experienced in the region, the data can be used to assess the impacts of climate variability on the plankton. This presentation will provide details on the project and an overview of the data, including regional and interannual variability so far revealed. The intention of the presentation is to increase awareness of this project which could provide data that are of use to resource managers in the region.
Spatial distribution of fisheries species must be well characterized in order to avoid local depletions during fishing seasons and to identify closure areas that minimize bycatch in other fisheries. The Bristol Bay red king crab (BBRKC) fishery is one of the largest crab fisheries in Alaska. One important component of BBRKC management is the existence of no-trawl zones, which protect crabs from trawl fisheries. Recently there has been concern that these no-trawl zones are in the wrong locations and are not sufficiently protecting king crabs. However, these concerns are difficult to evaluate because the survey that measures crab abundance and distribution occurs during the summer, while crab bycatch in trawl fisheries primarily occurs in winter. Daily fishing logs (DFLs), kept by skippers in the king crab fleet since 2005, contain detailed information on the spatial distribution of catch and effort in the fall/winter; however, the data within these hand-written logbooks has not been readily accessible. We are digitizing DFLs and using catch per unit effort (cpue) to elucidate fall/winter distributions of BBRKC. This should aid managers in evaluating whether current locations of no-trawl zones are effective in protecting BBRKC. These data also allow for the comparison of crab distributions between years and seasons, furthering our understanding of crab movement, especially under different temperature regimes. DFL data will help us understand if and how no-trawl zones should shift as the climate changes in the North Pacific.