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Project Information

Title: LTM Program - Long-term monitoring of marine bird abundance and habitat associations during fall and winter in PWS

Project Year and Number: 2017: 17120114-E

Other Fiscal Years and Numbers for this Project: None

Principal Investigator (PI): Mary Anne Bishop

Assisting Personnel: None

Research Location:

Restoration Category:

Injured Resources Addressed: Not Specified

Abstract: INTEGRATED PREDATOR-PREY SURVEYS 2017-2021: HUMPBACK WHALES, MARINE BIRDS, FORAGE FISH Under the next five year monitoring program, we are proposing to integrate predator-prey survey efforts by combining monitoring work from three of the Prince William Sound (PWS) Pelagic Component projects and collaborating with the Herring Research and Monitoring program. We propose to combine the humpback whale, marine bird and forage fish (including euphausiids) projects into a single, integrated predator-prey survey. The integrated survey would be conducted during the fall, providing insight into predator-prey interactions at a crucial time when forage fish energy is maximized while marine birds and humpback whales are provisioning for the upcoming winter. In addition, the survey would estimate the availability, including species composition, density, and depth distribution of prey near seasonally predictable predator aggregations in PWS. The survey would include concurrent habitat and nutrient measurements in conjunction with acoustic measurements of nekton biomass and predator density. A midwater trawl (max depth ~ 100 m) will be used to sample acoustic sign and collect samples of forage fish for further analysis (e.g., diet, energy). Marine bird observations will be conducted concurrent with acoustic transects and humpback whale distribution and abundance will be assessed at the same time and area from a smaller vessel. The simultaneous surveys will reduce vessel cost for the three projects while combining expertise with spatial and temporal consistency, allowing a more comprehensive understanding of the pelagic ecosystem. In addition to a planned research cruise in September/October, the proposed approach may also allow for in-kind contributions from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for vessel charter and an additional survey in March, when humpback whales are returning from their migrations to feed and when we can assess the winter severity on forage fish. The NOAA funds will be applied for and awarded on an annual basis, and a March NOAA cruise, if awarded, would be an added value to the GWA Pelagic monitoring program.

FALL AND WINTER MARINE BIRD ABUNDANCE & HABITAT ASSOCIATIONS This project represents the continuation of a long-term data set on marine bird abundance and habitat associations during fall and winter in PWS that was initiated in 2007. Of the marine birds that overwinter in PWS, nine species were initially injured by EVOS, including three species that have not yet recovered or their recovery is unknown (marbled murrelet, Kittlitz’s murrelet and pigeon guillemot). Fall through winter are critical periods for survival as food tends to be relatively scarce or inaccessible, the climate more extreme, light levels and day length reduced, and water temperatures colder. By monitoring marine birds during fall and winter we will improve our predictive models of species abundance and distribution across PWS in relation to biological and physical environmental factors. Furthermore, continued monitoring will help determine marine bird vulnerability to future perturbations and environmental change, including oil spills. The project utilizes established U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey protocols adapted for GPS-integrated data entry. As a cost-effective alternative to a dedicated vessel, surveys are conducted onboard research vessels already conducting oceanographic, fisheries, or marine mammal surveys. Our long-term monitoring has shown that the nonbreeding season cannot be characterized as a single time period when describing marine bird distribution and suggests that multiple surveys are required to quantify wintering populations and understand changes in marine bird distribution. For 2017-2021 we have identified four cruises a year for marine bird surveys: Gulf Watch Alaska Pelagic Integrated Predator Prey Surveys (September, March- funding dependent; described above), Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) spot shrimp survey (October), and PWS Science Center Ocean Tracking Network maintenance cruise (February).

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Proposal: View PDF (607 KB)

Funding Recommendations: View

Funding Detail For: 2017

Quarterly Project Tasks For: 2017

Annual Report: 2017: Due 09/01/2017

Final Report: Draft Final Report Due 4/15/18

Publications from this Project: None Available