Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 5801
Title: Habitat-specific distribution of Pacific ocean perch (Sebastes alutus) in Pribilof Canyon, Alaska
Author: Richard D. Brodeur
Publication Year: 2001
Journal: Continental Shelf Research
Volume: 21
Issue: 3
Pages: 207-224

Shelf edge canyons are well-known sites of enhanced biomass due to on-shore transport and concentration of zooplankton along their axes, both of which contribute to the high densities of nekton frequently found in these canyons.  Using a combination of acoustics, trawling, and in situ observations with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), the distribution of pelagic and demersal biota within Pribilof Canyon in the Bering Sea was examined in September of 1995 and 1997.  Near-bottom acoustic scattering patterns in the 38 kHz data showed high concentrations of biomass beginning around the 180 m bottom depth contour and continuing to about 220 m, which were presumed to be adult fish based on their target strength distributions.  The 120 kHz data also showed very strong scattering in the water column between 150 and 175 m, which was absent from the 38 kHz data, and therefore attributed mainly to zooplankton.  The dominant taxa collected in bottom trawls and mid-water plankton tows were adult rockfishes (Pacific ocean perch, Sebastes alutus) and euphausiids (Thysanoessa spp.), respectively. In situ videos revealed dense aggregations of these rockfishes inhabiting a “forest” of attached sea whips, Halipteris willemoesi, during night deployments of the ROV, while areas with damaged sea whips had far fewer rockfish, and areas without this biotic habitat structure had no rockfish.  During the day, the rockfishes were seen above the “forest”, where they were apparently feeding on dense swarms of euphausiids.  It appears that these rockfish utilize this predictable and abundant food resource in the canyon during the day and are associated with the sea whip habitat at night during periods of inactivity.  More research is needed on these slow-growing biotic habitats and how fishing activities in the Bering Sea and elsewhere may impact these habitats.

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