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Northern
Bering Sea IERP

The Northern Bering Sea IERP will focus on the northern Bering Sea and include consideration of upstream and downstream ecosystems in the southeastern Bering Sea, western Bering Sea, and Chukchi Sea, respectively.

About the Northern Bering Sea Research Program

The North Pacific Research Board’s (NPRB) Northern Bering Sea IERP will focus on the northern Bering Sea and will include consideration of upstream and downstream ecosystems in the southeastern Bering Sea, western Bering Sea, and Chukchi Sea, respectively. Approximately $6.5 million dollars will be made available for this research program by the NPRB. Funding partners may provide additional resources. Research will initiate in fall 2025 and Principal and Co-Investigators must remain engaged through September 2031. Research will focus on how environmental conditions and processes in the Northern Bering Sea influence species of commercial, ecological and subsistence importance, and the implications for state and federal fisheries management and communities that depend on these resources.

Join Our List of Interested Parties!

Share your contact information with potential collaborators. Individuals in Alaska communities and those with vessels available for contract are encouraged to include their information to facilitate connections. The list of interested parties will be updated periodically.

Enter keywords (e.g., oceanography, vessel charter, coastal community, marine mammals) separated by a semi-colon. Enter up to 12 words.

GEOGRAPHIC AREA OF INTEREST

Click here to learn more about the Northern Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program—where and why we are focusing our research here.

MORE INFO

PRE-PROPOSAL SUBMISSIONS

NPRB is currently soliciting proposals at the pre-proposal process. Learn more about what NPRB is looking for in your pre-proposal submission. Submit your pre-proposal here.

MORE INFO

Resources for Investigators

Find links to relevant documents that applicants may wish to reference.

MORE INFO

Northern
Bering Sea Defined

The northern Bering Sea is defined as the area of the Bering Sea shelf north of 60°N (area shaded in dark; the dotted line is 60°N). This ecosystem typically has continuous winter sea ice cover and strong northern water flow through the narrow Bering Strait. The two largest rivers in Alaska (Yukon and Kuskokwim) also exit in this area and represent an important source of freshwater and nutrients.

The Northern Bering Sea IERP will focus on the northern Bering Sea and will include consideration of upstream and downstream ecosystems in the southeastern Bering Sea, western Bering Sea, and Chukchi Sea, respectively.

Why Study the Northern Bering Sea?

The Bering Sea is a productive and diverse marine ecosystem that supports important fisheries and coastal communities in western Alaska. More than 40% of the annual U.S. catch of fish and shellfish are harvested in this region. Large populations of marine birds and mammals migrate to these summer feeding grounds to prey upon krill, copepods, forage fishes, and benthic invertebrates. Coastal communities have been an integral part of this ecosystem for millenia. But with recent warming conditions in the Bering and Chukchi Seas and rapid sea ice loss, this once productive ecosystem is showing signs of profound transition. Populations of Bering Sea snow and king crab and stocks of Yukon and Kuskokwim River Chinook and chum salmon have collapsed, prompting fishery closures. Meanwhile, Bristol Bay sockeye salmon continue to set run and harvest records. More information is needed to better understand why these changes are occurring, how they will affect the ecosystem in the future, and the implications for subsistence and commercial activities in this region.

How to Apply

The Northern Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program Request for Pre-Proposals was released on October 20th, 2023. The deadline to apply is May 15, 2024. NPRB is communicating with other funding agencies/organizations and may seek to fund research in partnership with other entities. NPRB may share pre-proposals with potential funding partners.

Solicitation of Pre-proposals

The North Pacific Research Board issued a solicitation for pre-proposals on October 20, 2023 for an Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (IERP) that will support integrated research in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, centered on the Northern Bering Sea. Topics of interest include how environmental conditions and processes in the Northern Bering Sea influence species of commercial, ecological, and subsistence importance, and implications for state and federal fisheries management and communities that depend on these resources. 

Approximately $6.5 million dollars have been made available by NPRB for this research program. Funding partners may bring additional resources.

New For this Proposal Process

Awards up to $10,000 will be available to support the development of full proposals with Indigenous Co-Investigators, or Indigenous-led proposals can apply the funds to seek Western science Co-Investigators. More information available in the RFP.

Pre-proposals will be invited in two research categories:

1

Oceanography and lower trophic level productivity

Influence of sea ice dynamics, ocean properties, and advection on the phenology, magnitude, and location of primary and secondary production that influence species of commercial, ecological and subsistence importance.

2

Species distribution and interactions

Physical, biological, and ecological drivers and important thresholds relevant to the distribution, phenology, life history, and condition of species of commercial, ecological and subsistence importance, and implications for state and federal fisheries management and communities that depend on these resources.

Additional Details for Proposers

Following an initial review of the pre-proposals, a subset will be invited to submit full proposals in October 2024. Innovative approaches to using Indigenous Knowledge and Western science in concert are encouraged in both research categories. Individual pre-proposals may anticipate requests up to $2.5 million. The budget should include funding needed for logistics support (e.g., vessel contract) and the logistics support should be presented separately from the rest of the budget (separate templates will be provided). Pre-proposals should be viable as independent projects but may include an explanation of the intent to integrate with other pre-proposals, if funded.

Questions should be directed to Danielle Dickson, Senior Program Manager of the Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (Danielle.Dickson@nprb.org) or Matthew Baker, NPRB Science Director (Matthew.Baker@nprb.org).

Anticipated Timeline of Activities

Research related to the program would likely start in 2026, with investigator involvement continuing through 2031. Final funding decisions will be announced in October 2025.

October 2o, 2023

NPRB solicits pre-proposals.

October 2024

NPRB invites full proposals with additional awards to support Indigenous partnerships.

Summer 2025

NPRB coordination with funding partners.

October 2025

NPRB announces funding decisions and scope of funded research program.

2026- 2031

Coordinated research, fieldwork, analysis, and outreach.

Importance to Coastal Communities

Alaska communities rely on healthy marine resources. Salmon, marine mammals, and other species sustain communities and are intricately connected to their cultural identity. Rapid environmental change has caused uncertainty about the times and places that resources may be harvested, and in some instances access has become more dangerous. Sea ice loss has increased vessel traffic leading to potential disturbance and exposure to pollutants. Ecosystem studies that include Alaska community members will improve our collective understanding of how environmental change affects marine species and their interactions and the communities that rely upon them.

Importance to Industry Stakeholders

Alaska’s fisheries support important sectors of the economy both locally and nationally, and provide food security and an important source of fresh seafood worldwide. Rapid environmental change has led to crashes of stocks of highly valued species like crab and salmon and created economic uncertainty. Recently, distributions of major groundfish stocks including walleye pollock and Pacific cod have shifted northward, sometimes into areas where U.S. commercial fisheries cannot access them. Better understanding the mechanisms underlying recent changes in the northern Bering Sea may further inform fisheries management and industry partners in the development of strategies to respond and enhance resilience.

Resources for Investigators

Below are some relevant resources that applicants may find helpful when developing a pre-proposal for the Northern Bering Sea IERP. This list is not exhaustive and applicants are not required to reference these documents in their pre-proposal.

Informational Webinar: About the NBS IERP

The NBS IERP RFP informational webinar occurred on Monday, October 30 10-11 AM Alaska time via Zoom. To view the recorded webinar, click on the link below. The List of Interested Parties will be updated periodically.

Online Resources

Inuit Circumpolar Council Protocols for Ethical and Equitable Engagement
North Pacific Fishery Management Council Climate Readiness Synthesis
North Pacific Fishery Management Council LKTKS Protocol
North Pacific Fishery Management Council SSC Workshop on Rapid Change in the Bering and Chukchi Seas

IARPC Arctic Research Plan 2022-2026 Appendices

Strategic Document Synthesis Narratives
Northern Communities Document Synthesis
State Document Synthesis
Federal Document Synthesis
International Document Synthesis