Wednesday, March 30, 2016

NOAA Tracks Predator-Prey Relationships

Two new federal fisheries databases are helping to track what Alaska marine fish species are eating and what’s eating them.

The goal is to make this diet data, collected in collaboration with the University of Washington for more than 35 years, easy for scientists worldwide to use in their own research, says Kerim Aydin, manager of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Resource Ecology and Ecosystem Modeling Program.

NOAA Fisheries announced the two programs this week, saying the food habit data is helping them better understand how ecosystems work, and to monitor fish populations that are difficult for research gear to sample.

Octopus, for example, are hard to catch in research trawl nets and other fishing gear, so it is challenging to determine the size of octopus populations and how well they are doing.

In the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, cod consistently eat octopus, so researchers have examined cod stomachs from this area for over three decades and have ben able to estimate production and mortality rates of octopus and determine precautionary fishing limits for octopus in this region.
The Resource Ecology and Ecosystem Modeling Groundfish Diet Data Tool 
(, includes a database of every prey type found in stomachs of key marine fish species caught during NOAA research surveys in Alaska waters.

The Alaska Marine Ecosystem Considerations Database,, includes annually updated news about environmental and other conditions that may be affecting Alaska marine ecosystems, including the Eastern Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and the High Arctic.

The ecosystem database also includes detailed assessments of ecosystem condition and handy report cards that provide a snapshot of the status for a variety of ecosystem indicators such as predator abundance, seabird reproductive success, human socio-economic factors, plankton size and more.
“The possibilities for how these data may help advance science, resource management and classroom learning are limitless, Aydin said.

Another resource of interest is the Stomach Examiner’s Tool, an online tool for identifying Alaska prey including detailed photos of prey parts most often found in fish stomachs, is at

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