Seabird Distribution and Abundance in the Offshore Environment Final Report


Title: Seabird Distribution and Abundance in the Offshore Environment Final Report
Publication Date:
February 01, 2017
Document Number: BOEM 2017-004
Pages: 87

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Kuletz, K.; Labunski, E. (2017). Seabird Distribution and Abundance in the Offshore Environment Final Report. Report by US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). pp 87.

Seabirds are wide-ranging upper trophic level foragers and good indicators of changes in marine ecosystems. Seabirds spend most of the year offshore, yet our data gaps are greatest for the pelagic aspect of their lives. The goal of the Seabirds Offshore Project was to conduct at-sea surveys in lease sale areas and adjacent ocean planning areas, to provide current temporal and spatial data on marine birds and mammals, and submit the data to the North Pacific Pelagic Seabird Database (NPPSD). During this project, 2010-2016, we placed seabird observers on 45 research and monitoring vessels, usually in association with multidisciplinary ecosystem projects. Because many of these cruises transited from southern Alaska ports, we included all surveyed routes in this report. We surveyed a total of 97,525 km, with the majority (31,497 km) in the Chukchi Sea, followed by the southern Bering Sea (30,265 km), northern Bering Sea (26,326 km) and Beaufort Sea (9,438 km). Our survey coverage extended from the northern GOA shelf to the eastern Aleutian Islands, north throughout the Bering Sea shelf, into the eastern Chukchi Sea, and the western Beaufort Sea shelf, including the Arctic Basin. The seabird survey data collected under the Seabirds Offshore Project has been included in over 30 presentations and 17 publications to date, as well as at least 12 public outreach and education venues and 7 websites. We have described seasonal distribution patterns of seabirds in offshore waters of Alaska, and identified ‘hotspots’ of foraging and migration activity. Through several collaborative projects, including on-going efforts, we have linked seabird survey data to oceanographic and prey data collected during concurrent cruises, and from remote sensing data. These efforts test hypotheses about the distribution of upper trophic level predators in response to changes in prey and ice cover. All seabird data collected during this project has been submitted to the NPPSD, to the Alaska BOEM office, and to affiliated ecosystem projects (available via Alaska Ocean Observing System work spaces).

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