Nearshore Fish Surveys in the Beaufort Sea

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Nearshore systems provide habitat to a unique community of marine and diadromous (lives in both fresh and saltwater) fish and support high fish abundance.

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In the Arctic, rapid changes in temperature and salinity have led to changes in where fish commonly occur.  Recent offshore survey efforts also provide an opportunity to compare fish abundance between offshore and nearshore habitats to understand which species use nearshore and offshore habitats and if nearshore habitats are used for specific part of their lives (like juvenile rearing, feeding, or reproduction).  Updated information on fish community and use of nearshore habitats will provide management agencies with information for assessments and improve understanding of current susceptibility and risks of development and production in federal waters. 

Project Tasks:

  1. Examine the composition of nearshore fish communities along spatial (central to eastern Beaufort) and temporal (inter-annual) scales.
  2. Describe the distribution and abundance of marine and diadromous fish species in nearshore habitats in relation to known hydrographic (e.g., salinity, temperature) and biological (e.g., presence of kelp) drivers.
  3. Assess the possible connectivity between continental shelf and estuarine nearshore fish communities through comparative analyses of community assemblage, abundance, and individual attributes (e.g., length) to identify the role of nearshore habitats.

Engage local students from Kaveolook School through K-12 Oceanography Program (see

A fish trap set in the ocean along the shore near Kaktovik, AK

A fyke net or fish trap used for continuous sampling of nearshore fish in shallow waters. Fish swimming along the beach are stopped by a small-mesh net that guides them in to one of these two underwater fish traps that are set side by side. Researchers visit nets at least once a day to identify, count, and release fish.
(Credit: Vanessa von Biela, USGS. Public domain.)

Underwater view of fish inside a fyke net

An underwater image of fish captured by a fyke net near Kaktovik, Alaska, Beaufort Sea, USA. The small silver fish with dark backs are young-of-year (age-0) Arctic cisco (Coregonus autumnalis) and the flatfish are Arctic flounder (Liopsetta glacialis).
​​​​​​​(Credit: Vanessa von Biela, USGS. Public domain.)

A lot of small fish from a fyke net set near Kaktovik, AK.  Biologists sort through them.

Biologists identify species, count, measure length, and release thousands of fish each year to understand how fish use nearshore habitats.
(Credit: Vanessa von Biela, USGS. Public domain.)