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Researchers Gather Baseline Data in Shotgun Cove


February 04, 2005

NOAA Fisheries and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists are studying near-shore fish populations and their habitats in Shotgun Cove, which lies approximately six miles east of Whittier, Alaska.

jpg Researchers capturing fish in Shotgun Cove

Researchers capturing fish in Shotgun Cove
Photo: Mark Boland/NOAA Fisheries

"Our work has two goals," said Jon Kurland, NOAA Fisheries' Assistant Regional Administrator for Habitat Conservation in Alaska. "We want to understand the marine environment in Shotgun Cove so that we can give solid, scientifically-based advice to regulatory agencies and potential developers. Furthermore, if Shotgun Cove is developed, we will also want to understand any ecosystem changes that may occur over time."

jpg Researchers inspect survey sample and find herring

Researchers inspect survey
sample and find herring
Photo: Brian Lance/NOAA Fisheries

jpg Juvenile Coho Salmon

Juvenile Coho Salmon
Photo: Brian Lance/NOAA Fisheries

With completion of the road from Portage, visitor numbers to Whittier have increased dramatically over the last 3 years. A new boat dock in Whittier is now servicing large cruise ships. The completion of a new harbor this summer will provide moorage for another 107 smaller vessels. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently accepting comments from the public on the proposed construction of a road from Whittier that would extend half way to Shotgun Cove.

To help plan these developments, NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been assessing marine resources in Shotgun Cove. This information will help ensure that any potential developments in Shotgun Cove are designed to reduce adverse impacts to fishery resources in the area and to minimize impacts to habitat. Biologists may be able to use data and methods discovered during their Shotgun Cove work to improve designs for other research projects in Alaska's near-shore marine habitats."

Researchers have been capturing fish by pulling nets onto the beach by hand. Last summer researchers netted, counted and released unharmed nearly 20,000 fish of 30 species. They found that about 95% of these were juveniles of commercial or sport harvest interest, such as salmon, herring, cod, and pollock. Many species were found in eelgrass or kelp areas of Shotgun Cove

Scuba divers have surveyed beach seine areas to document what fish habitats are being sampled and to collect underwater video of fish species. In the future, biologists may gather baseline information about hydrocarbons in the area, map eelgrass habitat, and conduct bottom trawls of benthic habitat.

The beach seine surveys took place twice a month between June and December, though bad weather prevented some scheduled surveys. Researchers will return to Shotgun Cover this spring to assess seasonal habitat use by juvenile fish.



Source of News & Photographs:

NOAA Fisheries in Alaska
Web Site


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