Alaska Sea Grant 2002–2004 Project Directory

Research and information on Alaska coastal and marine issues

salmon The Alaska Sea Grant College Program conducts marine and coastal research, public education, and marine industry advisory services to help Alaskans wisely use and conserve the state's ocean resources. Funding comes from the state and federal government, and from industry.

2002–2004 Project Summaries

From 2002 to 2004, Alaska Sea Grant will undertake seven marine research projects, support several graduate students at the University of Alaska, and carry out a statewide public education and industry advisory program.

Research and outreach projects described here address important regional issues identified by Alaska Sea Grant through consultation with marine user groups, members of the seafood industry, and officials in state and federal government agencies. Each project was reviewed by peers and an advisory panel.

To see a list of publications resulting from past Alaska Sea Grant research and scientific meetings, take a look at our research catalog.


Impacts on Salmon

Wiser Utilization of Fisheries

Marine Environmental Issues

Diversification of Economy

Education and Training


Impacts on Salmon

Understanding the Role of Marine-Derived Nutrients in Population Dynamics of Sockeye Salmon [R/31-08]

Scientists have long known that nutrients, such as nitrogen, released into freshwater lakes and rivers by decomposing adult salmon carcasses help nourish the next generation of salmon. But just how important are these nutrients, and how can fishery managers determine the optimum number of returning salmon to provide for the nutrient needs of freshwater systems? Sea Grant–funded researchers will study the importance of salmon-derived nutrients to the productivity of 50 Alaska lakes. They'll use data on the relationship of adult spawning salmon to the number of smolts produced, and from that develop a model of the nutrients used in these systems. For ten lakes, existing nutrient conditions will be compared to records of long-term conditions to understand what these systems need for optimum nutrients and salmon production. Results are expected to help fishery managers adjust spawning goals to produce more salmon for both fishermen and the ecosystem.

Coastal Community Development Program and Fisheries Assistance Project [A/152-01]

Failed salmon runs, low salmon prices, and reduced timber harvests are causing severe economic hardship in some Alaska coastal communities. This project will identify the economic needs of impacted communities, design a program to assist the communities, and seek funding to implement the program.

Alaska Fisheries Extension Enhancement (FEE): Workshops on Change in the Salmon Industry [A/152-17]

Alaska's commercial salmon fishing industry is at a crossroads. Profitability continues to fall as salmon returns in some areas begin to decline. Fundamental changes may be necessary to maintain vibrant coastal fishing communities. This project will host a series of community workshops aimed at bringing stakeholders together to find ways to improve the industry.

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Wiser Utilization of Fisheries

An Economic Analysis of the Pacific Halibut Commercial Fishery [R/32-02]

While important changes have taken place in the commercial halibut industry, such as adoption of individual fishing quotas and guideline harvest limits, there exists no reliable economic model to gauge the impact of these and other management decisions on commercial fishermen. Sea Grant–funded researchers will develop a comprehensive economic model that considers biological factors such as halibut population dynamics, and market information such as prices, inventories, production costs, and markets. Their model will allow fishery managers to examine the economic consequences of changes in Pacific halibut abundance and changes in the allocation of halibut among commercial, sport, and subsistence user groups.

Technical Assistance Program for Alaska Seafood Processors [A/152-02]

Many of Alaska's seafood processors do not have the technical or marketing expertise needed to develop new products, respond to quality issues, or develop marketing efforts. However, this expertise can be found among the Marine Advisory Program (MAP) agents and specialists. The project will develop and distribute brochures describing the technical assistance programs, workshops, and courses available from MAP.

Seafood Technology Literature Log [A/152-03]

Many seafood processors have limited access to research discoveries in seafood science and technology. This is an especially serious handicap for processors in Alaska's remote locations. This project will produce two issues of a bibliography highlighting new technologies for handling, processing, and storing seafood in 2002, and four issues in 2003. Subscribers will be able to choose between receiving it as a hard copy or electronic.

Assortment Analysis of Hong Kong Seafood Products [A/152-04]

Seafood plays an important role in Hong Kong's trade activity. Hong Kong annually imports about $1.3 billion worth of seafood. This project will analyze the seafood product variety available in several Hong Kong supermarkets. Evaluations of quality indicators of selected seafood products also will be conducted. A manual will be prepared to describe the evaluated products.

Herring Market Survey [A/152-05]

In Alaska, there is interest in increasing the trade volume and value of herring products other than roe. To increase the use of herring, issues such as seafood technology, marketing, and knowledge of existing infrastructures must be addressed. In conjunction with other projects, a scientifically based mail survey will be conducted to identify the consumption patterns, price, and quality preferences of users of herring products in Belgium, Germany, and France.

Technology Transfer to Enhance Seafood Plant Productivity [A/152-06]

Increasing costs and diminishing supplies of energy and water require immediate attention by seafood processors. This project will yield a minimum of six bulletins for the seafood industry that provide information to enhance energy and water conservation, minimize waste, and increase plant productivity.

Training Assistance for Alaska Processors [A/152-07]

New federal and state seafood processing regulations, as well as the increased need to supply high-quality fresh and frozen seafood products, make training in seafood quality and safety essential for the industry. Increased production of farmed salmon continues to raise quality standards for all salmon species. This project provides the training needed by seafood companies to comply with state and federal regulations for seafood processing, as well as information needed to produce high-quality products.

Alaska Regional FEE: Future of West Coast Commercial Fisheries [A/152-18]

Harvesters of wild-caught Pacific salmon have lost markets to the burgeoning salmon farming industry and other economic conditions, forcing hundreds of fishermen out of the business and causing upheaval in rural coastal communities dependent on commercial fishing. Direct marketing of salmon from the dock to the consumer is one way to lower expenses and bolster profits to fishermen. This project will update the Alaska Fishermen's Direct Marketing Manual and expand its contents to be relevant to fishermen along the entire West Coast. The project also will include regional workshops aimed at helping fishermen, especially in hard-pressed rural communities, successfully adjust to changing economic conditions in the fishing industry.

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Marine Environmental Issues

Utilization of Alaska Kelp Beds by Commercially Important Fishes [R/31-09]

Kelp beds are important habitat for commercially important fish species in many parts of the world. But little is known about the importance of large marine plants, including kelp, as habitat for commercially caught fishes in Alaska. In this study, Sea Grant–funded researchers will study fish assemblages in kelp beds. They'll examine the use of canopy-forming and understory kelp beds by juvenile and adult fish to determine species' habitat preferences, and follow seasonal changes in kelp cover and fish assemblages over one year. This study will yield information valuable to fishery managers in their goal of protecting important fish nurseries. The study also is expected to provide baseline information important to understanding the role of nearshore kelp beds in sustaining diverse, productive marine ecosystems.

Generalized Models of Local Depletion for Walleye Pollock in Steller Sea Lion Critical Habitat [R/101-02]

(Two-year extension of R/101-01, Has Local Depletion of Walleye Pollock Occurred in Steller Sea Lion Critical Habitat?)

There is concern that commercial fishing for walleye pollock in the Bering Sea could be hampering the recovery of the endangered Steller sea lion. Specifically, biologists wonder if commercial fishing is causing localized depletions of pollock that are at times critical to the health and survival of sea lions. However, there has been no published analysis of fishery data or survey data to suggest that such local depletions occur. Over the next two years, Sea Grant–funded researchers will standardize fishery data from 1992 to 2000. Local depletion models will be applied to the data on large and small scales to study harvests near Steller sea lion rookeries and haul-outs. The results of the study should provide fishery managers with better information on the impacts of fishing time and place on Steller sea lions, which can be used to improve fishery management in concert with sea lion recovery.

The Seasonal and Biochemical Nutritional Variance in Pollock as a Food for Marine Mammals [R/101-03]

Feeding trials with harbor seals at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward showed significant seasonal differences in how this pinniped responded to controlled diets of herring and pollock. At some times of the year, seals gained fat and body mass consuming both herring and pollock. At other times of the year, they lost body fat eating both species, but gained mass. In these trials, the seals were fed from single batches of fish so that fish nutritional quality was the same. In nature, however, the body composition of fish is not constant and presumably varies seasonally and developmentally in nutritional value. The next step, therefore, is to understand how season impacts the nutritional value of the fish. During the next two years, Sea Grant–funded researchers will quantify the seasonal nutritional and biochemical differences in pollock, and relate those differences to pinniped metabolism. Because pollock is a significant fishery in Alaska and because it is a focal point of current predator-prey studies with marine mammals, the project is limited to that species.

National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB) Video Program [A/152-08]

The National Ocean Sciences Bowl is an annual event that pits high school students from across the country in a competition to see who knows the most about our nation's oceans. In Alaska, where one of several regional competitions is held prior to the national finals, high schools from across the state compete for the honor of representing the state. During three of the last four competitions, the Marine Advisory Program has produced a video of the event. It has been exciting for those in the event to see the videos, and they have been useful to organizers in helping them explain the competition and recruit new schools. This project will result in videos of the 2002 and 2003 Alaska competitions. The videos will be aired on television stations throughout the state and shown in the classrooms of those interested in participating in the event.

Sightings and Samples: A Community-Based Research Effort [A/152-09]

Coastal communities are socially and economically affected by Steller sea lion protective measures. This project will provide the opportunity for residents and mariners to participate in research by reporting sightings and collecting fish samples needed to assess the distribution and diet of Steller sea lion predators and competitors in the Gulf of Alaska. This project will provide both biological and social benefits. It will inexpensively facilitate collection of valuable biological data and samples needed to improve our knowledge of Steller sea lions, and refine the assumptions on which fisheries management plans are based. Public involvement in this research will generate a grassroots-level sense of stewardship, and an understanding of and involvement in research on Steller sea lion ecology.

Marine and Fisheries Adult Education Workshops for Yukon-Kuskokwim Area [A/152-10]

Under this project, a series of adult education workshops and conferences will be conducted for residents of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region in the area of fisheries and related fields. Ten workshops will be held in Bethel at the UAF Kuskokwim campus. Another workshop will be held in Goodnews Bay. This project will help Y-K Delta residents make decisions that will improve their fishing industry and economy, and provide training to produce higher quality products, improved marketing strategies, and a more skilled workforce.

Alaska Resource Issues Forum Television Program [A/152-11]

This project is a continuation of a series of televised debates among principal spokespeople on issues pertinent to the wise use of Alaska's resources. To date, tens of thousands of people throughout Alaska have watched the 21 programs in the series, and have gained a better understanding of resource issues facing them and their state. Thus, public opinion on these issues has been developed from a more informed, rational basis, and better decisions have resulted.

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Diversification of Economy

Identification of the Cyanobacterial "Saxitoxin Genes" [R/95-03]

Consumption of shellfish containing accumulations of various marine toxins can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). Each year individuals become sick and occasionally die after eating untested shellfish contaminated with PSP. During the next two years, Sea Grant–funded researcher Gerry Plumley will seek to understand the molecular biochemistry of toxin production, the genetic mechanisms underlying toxin synthesis, and the role of environmental conditions on toxin synthesis. A key step is to clone the genes that lead to the production of the toxin. Progress in this area is expected to help researchers and scientists manage the ever-growing threat of harmful algal blooms and their impact on commercial fisheries and nearshore ecosystems.

A Model System to Examine Delayed Effects of Pollution Exposure [R/97-01]

Scientists believe delayed impacts of oil pollution can significantly reduce productivity of exposed marine fish populations. But it is generally too expensive to carry out trials to measure these effects. In this project, Sea Grant–funded researchers will incubate the eggs and pre-swimming larvae of zebrafish, a common laboratory fish, in varying concentrations of oiled and unoiled water. Surviving free-swimming larvae will be transferred to clean water and reared to adulthood. Factors relating to fitness will be observed as the fish grow to maturity. Once mature, the fish will be bred—oiled fish with oiled fish, and non-oiled fish with non-oiled fish—to allow scientists to evaluate multigenerational effects. Their offspring will likewise be reared in clean water to adulthood to evaluate sublethal effects of oil pollution.

Charter Log and Boatkeeper Publication Series [A/152-12]

This project is a continuation of two ongoing publications that meet some of the information needs of commercial fishermen and marine recreation tourism operators in Alaska. Charter Log is the only dedicated information source for charter operators in the state, and has wide readership. Boatkeeper articles address common problems in boat operation and maintenance, and are intended to improve efficiency and profitability in the commercial fisheries by helping to lower ownership and operating costs.

Development of Voluntary Guidelines for Marine Wildlife Viewing [A/152-13]

A growing marine ecotourism industry is dependent on continuing availability of marine wildlife to view. Charterboat operators are sometimes in conflict with passengers who want to get as close as possible to the animals, and wildlife managers who want to minimize disturbance. Regulation is arbitrary, not situation-specific, and difficult to enforce. In some regions, operators have agreed to voluntary standards, which tend to be followed out of good will and possibly also out of peer pressure. This project will develop a set of voluntary standards or guidelines for commercial marine wildlife viewing, covering approach distances, disturbance prevention, and other issues.

Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning Outreach, Monitoring, and Research Project [A/152-14]

Paralytic shellfish poison (PSP) is a naturally occurring toxin sometimes found in shellfish. The toxin can sicken or kill people who eat PSP-tainted shellfish. Alaska has a pervasive problem with PSP, resulting in multimillion-dollar annual losses to the commercial fishery. More than 150 outbreaks from personal-harvest shellfish have occurred since 1973, and two recent deaths occurred on Kodiak Island. This two-year effort will provide public information on the problems and hazards of PSP in Alaska; coordinate research and provide outreach information resulting from research projects; coordinate the West Coast Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) work group; plan and conduct a conference to present recent information on West Coast and Alaskan HAB issues; and assist with introduction of the Mist Alert™ PSP test kit.

Purple Hinge Rock Scallop Aquaculture Development for Alaska [A/152-15]

The survival of the Alaska shellfish culture industry depends on its ability to diversify production to species other than the Pacific oyster. Over the past eight years, the Alaska shellfish farming industry has conducted a series of projects aimed at producing native shellfish species, such as the purple hinge rock scallop. Shellfish hatchery technology was developed in 1999 to produce seed from purple hinge rock scallop. However, procedures for growing these scallops to marketable size have not been developed. The intent of this project is to conduct growth research in cooperation with participating farms and provide the information to the farming industry.

Coastal Development and Shellfish Aquaculture for Prince of Wales Island, Alaska [A/152-16]

Current regulations to obtain an aquatic farming permit in Alaska are the most cumbersome in the nation. Applications for aquatic farm permits are only accepted in even-numbered years, and the yearlong review process significantly slows industry growth. The primary objective of this two-year project is to produce an aquaculture development plan for Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, that will enable rapid issuance of aquatic farming permits.

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Education and Training

Sea Grant Traineeships [E/142-01]

Graduate student research and training are a special asset of a university-based research program. Since 1985, Alaska Sea Grant has provided stipends to more than 80 graduate students in direct support of Alaska Sea Grant research. Most of these students graduate to productive careers in business, academia, and government.

We invite you to visit our online profiles for an up-close-and-personal introduction to our currently supported students.

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Information Services [A/161-01

Effectively communicating science and other useful information to industry, policy makers, conservationists, resource managers, educators, and the general public is a crucial function of Alaska Sea Grant. Information Services communication specialists carry out this function by organizing conferences, workshops, and symposia that bring scientists together for professional exchanges of ideas and information; through production and distribution of educational books, videos, and other publications; and through community-based marine education projects. The communication specialists also convey useful information to people through the World Wide Web, and through local, state, and national news media via news releases, magazine articles, and an internationally broadcast weekly radio news service.

Marine Advisory Program [A/151-01]

In a state as big as Alaska, it's critical that people have quick and easy access to knowledge, technology, and information concerning the state's marine resources. Agents and specialists of the Marine Advisory Program (MAP) live and work in the communities they serve, linking Alaska Sea Grant and the University of Alaska to its constituents. While the major MAP focus is on the state's commercial fishing industry, agents and specialists also work with sport fish charter operators, shellfish farmers, Native groups, school teachers, tourists, naturalists, and others with an interest in coastal and marine resources. Marine advisory agents pursue programs in the areas of fisheries, seafood product technology, seafood quality and development, shellfish aquaculture, marine mammals, marine conservation, marine safety, business management, seafood marketing, coastal community development, coastal recreation, and media technology. MAP offices are located in Anchorage, Bethel, Homer, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Petersburg, Dillingham, and Sitka. To learn more about the Marine Advisory Program, visit the MAP Web site.

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