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Season Distribution of Forage Fish

Determining the use of different near-shore habitats in Prince William Sound

Purse seining along a rock wall for forage fish.

Caption:

Purse seining along a rock wall for forage fish.

Background

Fish that use the nearshore habitats are at risk from oil spills. By understanding where different fish are found and which habitats they prefer it is possible to understand the potential impacts to fish communities from oil spills. By examining the energy content of the fish it is also possible to determine which habitats are optimal for growth.

Methods

Purse and beach seines were used to collect fish within different habitats as a function of season and within a day. The fish collected were identified by species and samples collected to analyze the diet and energy density of the fish. The data was then analyzed to examine the temporal use of different nearshore habitats, the quantity and quality of that habitat, the relative abundance among habitats, the energy flux and relative growth of the fish.

Results

Four fish accounted for 87% of the fish collected. In April juvenile pink salmon dominated the catch. In July saffron cod and herring were most numerous. And in September capelin were the most abundant. The greatest fish catches occurred in vegetated habitats and in the fall. All of the data has been incorporated into the NOAA nearshore fish atlas of Alaska, which can be accessed at www.fisheries. noaa. gov/alaska/habitat-conservation/nearshore-fish-atlas-alaska