National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2007

Effect of ocean conditions on the cross-shelf distribution of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) and capelin (Mallotus villosus)

Hollowed, A.B., C.D. Wilson, P.J. Stabeno, and S.A. Salo

Fish. Oceanogr., 16(2), 142–154, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2419.2006.00418.x (2007)

Acoustic trawl surveys were conducted in 2000 and 2001 in two troughs located off the eastern coast of Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska as part of a multiyear, multidisciplinary experiment to examine the influence of environmental conditions on the spatial distribution of adult and juvenile walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) and capelin (Mallotus villosus). Continuous underway sea surface temperature samples and water column profiles collected in 2000 and 2001 showed the presence of a sharp shelf-break front in Chiniak Trough and a mid-trough front in Barnabas Trough. At distances <22 km from shore, the water column was well mixed, whereas a welldefined mixed layer was present beyond approximately 22 km from shore. Satellite drifter tracks in Barnabas Trough entered along the upstream edge of the trough and appeared to follow the frontal boundary across the middle portion of the trough. A storm in 2001 weakened stratification and cooled surface water temperature by 1.6–2.1°C. Wind mixing associated with the storm event mixed subsurface chlorophyll a to the surface and enhanced nutrients in the surface waters. The storm event revealed spatial partitioning of summer production in Barnabas Trough, with production concentrated in regions inside the mid-trough front. In contrast, post-storm summer production was distributed throughout Chiniak Trough. The spatial distribution of walleye pollock and capelin differed and appeared to be related to differences in habitat characteristics. Acoustic survey data identified four acoustic sign types: age-1 pollock, adult pollock, capelin, capelin–age-0 pollock mix. The spatial distribution of these four sign types appears to be influenced by the oceanographic and topographic features of the two troughs. Adult pollock were broadly distributed throughout Chiniak Trough, whereas adult pollock were aggregated on the coastal side of the frontal system in Barnabas Trough. In 2000, capelin occurred with age-0 pollock. In Chiniak Trough, capelin were most abundant along steep topographic gradients at the edges of the trough and in a deep region near Cape Chiniak, whereas the capelin–age-0 mix (2000) or capelin (2001) concentrations were observed in slope water intrusions over the outer shelf in Barnabas Trough. Results suggest that habitat selection of walleye pollock and capelin are controlled by different processes. Capelin distributions appear to be limited by oceanographic conditions while other factors appear to be more important for pollock.

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