Salmon Ocean Ecology Program (SOEP)
Salmon fisheries are important to the economy, food security, and culture of Alaskans. The information and infrastructure available to assess salmon in our rivers has been integral to providing sustainable salmon fisheries today and into the future. However, our knowledge and understanding of salmon at sea is much more limited, and it has become increasingly clear that we need to understand what is happening during marine life stages to best support sustainable management. Therefore, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game initiated the Salmon Ocean Ecology Program (SOEP) to address marine salmon information needs across the state.
The Salmon Ocean Ecology Program supports statewide salmon fisheries management through the assessment and monitoring of salmon in the marine environment. Our goals are to understand the marine life of Alaskan salmon, use this information to assist fishery management decision-making, and help answer pressing questions about marine processes that influence the abundance and characteristics of our salmon populations.
What We Do
SOEP is a new and small program, which relies on partnerships with other fisheries agencies, tribal and stakeholder groups, NGOs, universities, and international groups to leverage our respective strengths and expertise. While we attempt to fill information gaps through a variety of research projects, the core of our work is to use marine surveys to assess salmon in the ocean, typically during the juvenile life stage or the first summer at sea. In these surveys we collect information on the abundance, health, and distribution of Alaskan salmon, and we try to understand the ecosystems they are living in.
We have 2 long-standing survey partnerships with NOAA's Alaska Fisheries Science Center through the Northern Bering Sea Ecosystem and Pelagic Trawl Survey (NBS survey) and the Southeast Alaska Coastal Monitoring survey (SECM survey). We have also initiated a feasibility project in the Southern Bering Sea (SBS survey). In the northern Bering Sea, we primarily assess Norton Sound and Yukon River salmon, and in SECM we primarily assess stocks originating in northern Southeast Alaska. There are a lot of important salmon stocks in between the northern and southern ends of our state that we hope to build assessments for in the future. These surveys accomplish 3 very important things: 1) they provide the only long-term marine salmon monitoring currently available for Alaskan salmon, 2) they teach us which life stages are most important in determining whether future run sizes will be good or poor, and 3) we can use these data to accurately forecast future runs.
We hope to grow our program and develop other marine surveys throughout Alaskan waters to better understand the factors influencing salmon runs and how they affect our fisheries.
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