by Wyatt Fournier from the Northwest Explorer
This component of the Gulf of Alaska Project focuses on the middle trophic level, specifically three forage fish species: Pacific herring, capelin and sandlance. Throughout the Gulf of Alaska ecosystem, these forage fishes provide the critical link between small invertebrates like euphasiids and copepods and species higher on the food chain, including adult predatory fishes, birds, and marine mammals. One of our project goals is to provide a synoptic view, from the shoreline out to beyond the shelf-break, of the distribution and abundance of forage fishes and linkages to the early life stages of the five groundfish species in this study. Our offshore survey will complement the nearshore surveys that assess habitat characteristics and energy content of forage fishes. Gulf of Alaska project researchers will explore interactions among groundfish and forage fish species and their effects on nutritional condition and prey quality.