Polar Biology

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 87–113 | Cite as

Pelagic fish and zooplankton species assemblages in relation to water mass characteristics in the northern Bering and southeast Chukchi seas

  • Lisa Eisner
  • Nicola Hillgruber
  • Ellen Martinson
  • Jacek Maselko
Original Paper


This research explores the distributions and community composition of pelagic species in the sub-Arctic and Arctic waters of the northern Bering and central and southern Chukchi seas during September 2007 by linking pelagic zooplankton and fish assemblages to water masses. Juvenile saffron cod (Eleginus gracilis), polar cod (Boreogadus saida), and shorthorn sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius) were most abundant in warm, low salinity Alaska Coastal Water (ACW) of the central Chukchi Sea, characterized by low chlorophyll, low nutrients, and small zooplankton taxa. Adult Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) were more abundant in the less stratified Bering Strait waters and in the colder, saltier Bering Shelf Water of the northern Bering and southern Chukchi seas, characterized by high chlorophyll, high nutrients, and larger zooplankton taxa. Juvenile pink (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) and chum (O. keta) salmon were most abundant in the less stratified ACW in the central Chukchi Sea and Bering Strait. Abundances of large zooplankton were dominated by copepods (Eucalanus bungii, Calanus glacialis/marshallae, Metridia pacifica) followed by euphausiids (juvenile Thysanoessa raschii and unidentified taxa), whereas small zooplankton were dominated by bivalve larvae and copepods (Centropages abdominalis, Oithona similis, Pseudocalanus sp.). Pelagic community composition was related to environmental factors, with highest correlations between bottom salinity and large zooplankton taxa, and latitude and fish species. These data were collected in a year with strong northward retreat of summer sea ice and therefore provide a baseline for assessing the effects of future climate warming on pelagic ecosystems in sub-Arctic and Arctic regions.


Arctic Bering Sea Chukchi Sea Community composition Water mass characteristics Zooplankton distribution Polar cod Pelagic fish 



We thank the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Ecosystem Monitoring and Assessment program scientists Alex Andrews, Kristin Cieciel, Ed Farley, Jeanette Gann, Jennifer Lanksbury, Jim Murphy, and Bruce Wing, Fisheries Oceanography Coordinated Investigations program scientist Morgan Busby, TINRO Center Vladivostok scientist Anatoly Volkov, and student volunteers Lauren Kuehne and Jenefer Bell for collecting and processing BASIS fisheries and oceanography data. We are grateful to the captain and crew of the NOAA ship R/V Oscar Dyson for their assistance during our field sampling. Funding was provided by the Bering Sea Fisherman’s Association, Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim-Sustainable-Salmon-Initiative, and NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service. We also thank Mike Sigler and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions for the improvements of this manuscript. Any mention of trade names is for descriptive purposes only and does not reflect endorsement by the US government.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa Eisner
    • 1
  • Nicola Hillgruber
    • 2
    • 3
  • Ellen Martinson
    • 1
  • Jacek Maselko
    • 1
  1. 1.Auke Bay Laboratories, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA)Ted Stevens Marine Research InstituteJuneauUSA
  2. 2.School of Fisheries and Ocean SciencesUniversity of Alaska FairbanksJuneauUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Fisheries EcologyThünen InstitutAhrensburgGermany

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