Spatial and temporal patterns in the demersal fish community on the shelf and upper slope regions of the Gulf of Alaska


Mueter, Franz J., and Brenda L. Norcross
Cover date: 

We analyzed data from National Marine Fisheries Service bottom trawl surveys carried out triennially from 1984 to 1996 in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). The continental shelf and upper slope (0–500 m) of the GOA support a rich demersal fish fauna dominated by arrowtooth flounder (Atheresthes stomias), walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma), Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus), Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis), and Pacific Ocean perch (Sebastes alutus). Average catch per unit of effort (CPUE) of all ground­ fish species combined increased with depth and had a significant peak near the shelf break at 150–200 m. Species richness and diversity had significant peaks at 200–300 m. The western GOA was characterized by higher CPUEs and lower species richness and diversity than the eastern GOA. Highest CPUEs were observed in Shelikof Strait, along the shelf break and upper slope south of Kodiak Island, and on the banks and in the gullies northeast of Kodiak Island. Significant differences in total CPUE among surveys suggest a 40% increase in total groundfish biomass between 1984 and 1996. A multivariate analysis of the CPUE of 72 groundfish taxa revealed strong gradients in species composition with depth and from east to west, and a weak but signifi­ cant trend in species composition over time. The trend over time was associated with increases in the frequency of occurrence and CPUE of at least eight taxa, including skates (Rajidae), capelin (Mallotus villosus), three flat­ fish species, and Pacific Ocean perch, and decreases in frequency of occurrence and CPUE of several sculpin (Myoxocephalus spp.) species. Results are discussed in terms of spatial and temporal patterns in productivity and in the context of their ecological and management implications.