National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2021

Autonomous vehicle surveys indicate that flow reversals retain juvenile fishes in a highly advective high‐latitude ecosystem

Levine, R.M., A. De Robertis, D. Grünbaum, R. Woodgate, C.W. Mordy, F. Mueter, E. Cokelet, N. Lawrence-Slavas, and H. Tabisola

Limnol. Oceanogr., 66(4), 1139-1154, doi: 10.1002/lno.11671, View online (open access) (2021)

Summer surveys of the Chukchi Sea indicate that high densities of age‐0 gadid fishes, historically Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) but recently also walleye pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus), dominate the pelagic fish community. Adults are comparatively scarce, suggesting that either overwinter survivorship of age‐0 gadids is low, or that they emigrate to other areas of the Pacific Arctic. To examine population movement, we conducted repeat acoustic surveys with saildrone autonomous surface vehicles equipped with echosounders throughout summer 2018. The saildrones' range and endurance enabled two large‐scale surveys of the U.S. Chukchi shelf. Acoustic backscatter, a proxy for fish density, was highest in regions with sea surface temperatures of 6–8°C, and lowest in areas influenced by recent ice melt. A subarea of the central Chukchi was surveyed a total of four times; backscatter in this subarea increased by > 85% from late‐July to mid‐September. As summer progressed, fish developed more extensive diel vertical migrations and backscatter from individuals doubled. Both changes suggest increases in backscatter were driven primarily by increasing body size. Particle tracking simulations indicated age‐0 gadids were likely retained over the Chukchi shelf by extended periods of wind‐driven southward flow during the survey period before strong northward flow in late fall transported them to the north. These findings suggest that in summer 2018, age‐0 gadids were advected northward to the Chukchi shelf from the northern Bering Sea, where they were retained during a period of growth until late fall before being advected farther north toward the Chukchi and Beaufort shelf breaks.

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