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Berners Sleuths

These are some of the scientists tracking wildlife in the bay

Posted: Sunday, May 01, 2005

Andrew Eller

Graduate student

University of Alaska Fairbanks' School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences

Research: Early life history of hooligan and how long they remain in bay before moving into Lynn Canal. He's raising larval hooligan in effort to develop method to determine their age.

Finding (so far): Has netted larval hooligan throughout Berners Bay, demonstrating they use it as nursery.

Other questions: Do hooligan prefer spawning in glacial rivers to escape predators? How does tidal circulation retain larvae in the estuary?

Leon Shaul

Commercial fisheries biologist

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Research: Annual coho salmon abundance surveys in Berners River.

Finding: The Berners River supports a healthy run of coho salmon, which supplies an average of 16 percent of the annual Lynn Canal drift gillnet fishery's coho catch, which averages 64,800 fish.

Other questions: Not available.

Mike Sigler

Fisheries biologist

Auke Bay Laboratory

Research: Seasonal pulses of hooligan and their availability to predators like Steller sea lions.

Finding: Hooligan provide an abundant, energy-rich, predictable prey source for Steller sea lions. The energy density of hooligan is much higher than any other forage species reported in the North Pacific Ocean, except northern lampfish. The pulse of hooligan may be critical to sea lions right before they enter their breeding season.

Other questions: How do the sea lions sense that a hooligan run is about to begin?

Mary Willson

Biologist

Affiliated with the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences

Research: The abundance of predators during hooligan spawning runs in Berners Bay - especially gulls, sea lions, harbor seals and bald eagles.

Findings: The hooligan and other forage fish runs in Alaska and British Columbia may be key to regional coastal ecosystems, supporting large numbers of wildlife species.

Other questions: Predator surveys she led in the late 1990s focused on limited areas of the Lace and Antler rivers. The true magnitude of predators that accumulate in Berners Bay during the hooligan runs remains unknown.

Jamie Womble

Biologist

Auke Bay Laboratory

Research: Seasonal ecology of Steller sea lions and forage fish species.

Finding: The distribution of sea lions during spring reflects the distribution of spawning hooligan in Lynn Canal. Sea lions move to temporary haulouts closer to the hooligan runs.

Other questions: How do these spring energy pulses of hooligan or other "pulse" prey affect sea lions' reproductive success?



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