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Southeast Alaska trolling vessel ocean measurement program


Tyler HennonUniversity of Alaska Fairbanks
Harper SimmonsCollege of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Allison RiceMarine Advisory Program
University of Alaska Fairbanks
James Moore



Understanding of oceanographic conditions and the impact of environmental variability and long term changes on local communities in remote areas of Alaska requires observational data at spatial and temporal scales only community observers can provide with their year-round presence on the water and long term awareness of conditions. Such critical high-resolution environmental data are important not only for the local communities and fisheries, but addresses needs for stakeholders and fisheries management agencies as well. This project will establish year-round ocean monitoring of temperature and salinity in Southeast Alaska by engaging local community observers, specifically the Alaska Trollers Association. Partnering with ATA helps to overcome one of the major hurdles of any oceanographic field program, namely affordable ship time. Their widespread presence around Southeast Alaska will enable an unprecedented set of regular and systematic observations that will help to fill in critical gaps in marine environmental variability.


The issue

With over 30,000 km of shoreline, the vast yet severely undersampled Alaska coastline is home to some of the world’s richest fisheries. Throughout Alaska, coastal communities depend on commercial and subsistence fisheries for their livelihood. In Southeast Alaska, observations of even temperature and salinity are sparse in both space and time and present fisheries statistical recruitment/stock models rarely make use of environmental parameters such as temperature and salinity, because the data to justify their use has been insufficient, in part because of the expensive nature of ship time and mooring deployments. The broad time and space variability of the water properties and circulation patterns in the various primary fjords of this region remain virtually unknown, often leading ecological studies to speculate on the background conditions. This lack of information has not gone unnoticed by area residents, and they have a strong and urgent desire to understand those changes and their implications for commercial, recreational and subsistence resources.

Why is this an Alaska Sea Grant project?

This project addresses multiple aspects of the Alaska Sea Grant 2018–2023 Strategic plan. Specifically, it will help add to the body of knowledge of the seasonality of physical characteristics (temperature and salinity) at multiple sites across Southeast Alaska (Focus Area: Heathy Coastal Ecosystems).

How will researchers conduct their study?

To carry out our primary objective we will partner with the Alaska Trollers Association to collect vertical profiles of temperature, salinity, and density at multiple core stations across Southeast Alaska over the two year funding period. Sampling sites will effectively leverage existing transit routes such that data collect remains both feasible and repeatable for ATA members.

We will provide the ATA partnering vessels with robust and user friendly conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) profiling systems. Along with each CTD, a companion iPad will also be provided, enabling wireless data downloads from the CTD upon the completion of each cast. Once in cell range (likely when vessels return to port) data will be uploaded to remote servers for archival, quality control, and scientific analysis by UAF personnel (PIs and graduate student). Several in-person meetings will occur during the project to train key ATA personnel on CTD use, receive feedback on sampling strategy, and engage in two-way dialogues to discuss the program’s observations.