The plankton of Shelikof Strait, Alaska: Standing stock, production, mesoscale variability and their relevance to larval fish survival

Jeffrey M. Napp, Lewis S. Incze, Peter B. Ortner, Deborah L.W. Siefert, Lisa Britt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Physically-mediated variations in production, standing stock and distribution of plankton have a significant impact on the growth and survival of larval fishes in Shelikof Strait. We integrate descriptions of mechanisms that control the distribution and regional production of planktonic organisms with mechanisms that influence survival of early life history stages of marine fish, especially the locally abundant walleye pollock, Theragra chalcogramma. The timing of the spring phytoplankton bloom is more variable than the regular appearance of pollock larvae, and is affected by variability in the winter to spring storm season transition, stratification in the Alaska Coastal Current (ACC), and cloudiness. The spring bloom occurs first in the ACC, fuelling local production of copepod nauplii, the main prey item of early larval pollock. Shelikof Strait zooplankton standing stock is higher in the ACC than the surrounding Coastal Water (CW) throughout the spring. This is the result of local production as well as regional production which occurs upstream of the strait. Mesoscale features associated with the ACC (fronts, meanders, and eddies) determine the distribution of plankton through physical convergence, and reduced dispersion and transport. Evidence for enhancement of planktonic production in these features is lacking. Thus the ACC plays a strong role in determining plankton production, standing stock, and distribution in the Shelikof region. The strength of the relationship among plankton, planktonic production, larval pollock growth and survival, and fisheries recruitment is variable. The plankton is only one of several key variables that affect eventual recruitment to the pollock fishery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-38
Number of pages20
JournalFisheries Oceanography
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • fisheries-oceanography
  • Gulf of Alaska
  • larval fish
  • plankton
  • spring bloom
  • survival
  • zooplankton

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Oceanography


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