Fisheries Research (BBSRI)

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Bristol Bay Science & Research Institute

BBSRI's Mission

"To undertake scientific research and management that will foster economic and social benefits to the residents and communities of Bristol Bay to ensure sustainability of the region's renewable natural resources with an emphasis on its fish stocks and fisheries."

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PM2BBEDC has increased its role in fisheries science and research projects in Bristol Bay through the Bristol Bay Science and Research Institute(BBSRI), a locally directed non-profit subsidiary of BBEDC. The Institute works closely with State and Federal resource managers and the fishing industry to improve the management of area fish stocks and other natural resources.

Over the years, BBSRI has brought resources and focus to important topics and research needs that sometimes "fall between the cracks" of agencies with declining budgets or constrained by narrow mandates.  For example, the State of Alaska is responsible for ensuring that the Bay salmon fishery provides a sustainable catch over time, but no state or federal agency has a mandate to ensure economic vitality of the fishery.  Stemming directly from its mission, much of BBSRI's work over the last decade has been toward fostering the economic health and vitality of the region and its residents.

Port Moller Test Fishery

The Port Moller Test Fishery (PMTF) is conducted each year to help processors, fishermen, and fishery managers assess the timing, composition, and abundance of sockeye salmon returning to commercial fishing districts in Bristol Bay. The PMTF is approximately 150 to 200 miles southwest of the different Bristol Bay fishing districts; sockeye salmon typically take 6 to 9 days to travel this distance. Bristol Bay processors, fishermen, and fishery managers use the PMTF results to help gauge run strength, composition, and timing over the season.

Five or six stations spaced 10 miles apart are fished once each day from June 10 through July 10; stations range from 30 to 85 miles offshore, on a line stretching from Port Moller towards Cape Newenham (see map). Since 2011, we have caught fish using a 200-fathom gill net that consists of four 50-fathom shackles that alternate between shackles of 5 1/8 and 4 1/2 in mesh. The resulting daily index of abundance is known as the Replacement Index because it replaces the old Traditional Index (1987-2010) that was developed using only 5 1/8 in mesh and was selective towards older, larger fish. Fish are also sampled for scales and tissue to estimate the age composition and district-specific stock composition throughout each season. The genetics-based information lets us begin to parse the overall Replacement Index into relative abundance of fish bound for the different fishing districts, thereby increasing the program's usefulness.

In 2016, BBSRI will distribute four types of information from the PMTF:

  • Daily Catch Updates, which report raw catches (same day) and the updated Replacement Index
  • Interpretations of Data for recent day's catches, and the Replacement Index, and periodic forecasts of the entire year’s run and its relative strength to various districts.
  • Age Composition Estimates released multiple times per season by ADF&G
  • Stock Composition Estimates also released multiple times per season by ADF&G

Each series of updates will be consecutively numbered and delivered by email to everyone on the BBSRI email list serve, then posted to the web page within 24 hours.  Contact Michael Link to be added to the list of email recipients for these updates.  There is no cost to be on the list serve.  List members in 2015 will automatically be included in 2016.

2014 Port Moller Final Report     2015 Port Moller Final Report     2016 Port Moller Final Report

Study Area Map         Click here for daily 2016 PMTF updates

Contact Information

  • Operations, including daily catches and the email list: Michael Link, mlink@lgl.com
  • Daily interpretations: Dr. Scott Raborn, raborn@lgl.com

Bristol Bay Smolt Program

The goal of the smolt program is to provide annual estimates of the number of juvenile salmon (smolts) going to sea in major Bay rivers and use these numbers to improve pre-season forecasts of adult salmon returns to better refine spawing (escapement) goal targets.

2011 BBSRI Smolt Final Report    2012 BBSRI Smolt Final Report    2013 BBSRI Smolt Final Report   

2014 BBSRI Smolt Final Report    2015 BBSRI Smolt Final Report

BBSRI, Industry, and Local Governments Resurrect the Togiak and Igushik Counting Towers in 2016

With support from industry and local governments, the Bristol Bay Science and Research Institute is providing financial, project management, and staffing to operate the Togiak and Igushik towers in 2016.  The towers have been recent casualties of budget cuts within ADF&G by the State of Alaska.

The towers will operate as they have for decades.  Each tower is staffed by three technicians who count fish from scaffolding set up on each riverbank for 10 minutes out of each hour, 24 hours per day, and 10-minute counts are expanded to estimate the hourly passage.  Hourly counts of salmon are relayed to ADF&G’s area management biologist in Dillingham (Tim Sands), who uses the information to decide on when, and for how long, to open the commercial fishery.  Working together, the three tower technicians collect biological samples from the run each day by beach seining fish to collect scales (to age fish), measure length, and determine sex.  These biological samples are added to 50+ year datasets that are used to forecast future returns, determine escapement goals, and generally support sustainable fishery management in the Bay. 

Justin Priest (BBSRI) manages both projects.  ADF&G is providing support to set up the projects and has been generous in all ways to help pull these two project off.  BBSRI will provide 5 of the 6 technicians and the Bristol Bay Native Association will provide an intern (from New Stuyahok).

Although the Togiak and Igushik sockeye stocks are smaller compared to the large runs in the Wood River, and the Eastside drainages (Kvichak, Naknek, Egegik and Ugashik), they are not small compared with sockeye stocks elsewhere in Alaska, and these fisheries support a large number of set and driftnet fishermen, many of whom come from villages around Bristol Bay.

Funding

The budgets below do not represent entire project costs to run the towers; ADF&G will provide in-kind support that has a significant value and these things have reduced the budgets compared with starting from scratch, including boats, motors, towers, land use permits, etc.

Togiak Tower:  Traditional Council of Togiak ($10,000; or $10k), Twin Hills Village Council ($10k), Copper River Seafoods ($4k), North Pacific Seafoods ($6k),  ADF&G ($9.5k), and BBSRI ($40k)

Igushik Tower: Trident Seafoods ($25k), Village of Manakotak ($10k), and Peter Pan ($10k).  BBNA: in-kind by providing 1/3 of the labor to staff the tower.

All contributors view their support as “once-off” to fill an important data gap needed for managing the fishery in 2016; all have expressed interest in supporting longer-term and more robust solutions to dwindling state funding.

BBSRI Economic Analysis of Escapement Goals – March 12, 2015

The Bristol Bay Science and Research Institute (BBSRI) has released an analysis of sockeye salmon escapement goals for Bristol Bay.  Below are links to a short summary of recommendations stemmng from the study and two project reports.  The first report examines the biological and economic consequences of four alternative escapement goal policies, and the second report is a fairly technical analysis of methods to estimate the escapement needed to provide the theoretical maximum catch from Bay sockeye stocks (also known as BEGs).

Evaluation of Alternative Escapement Goals                             Interpretation of Advisory Panel (AP) Recommendations

Alternate ways to Estimate Biological Escapement Goals

For more information about BBSRI, contact Executive Director, Keggie Tubbs at 842-4370 or 1-800-478-4370 or email to keggie@bbedc.com.