NOAA Tracks Predator-Prey Relationships

Two new federal fisheries databases are helping to track
what Alaska marine fish species are eating and what’s eating them.
The goal is to make this diet data, collected in
collaboration with the University of Washington for more than 35 years, easy
for scientists worldwide to use in their own research, says Kerim Aydin,
manager of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Resource Ecology and Ecosystem
Modeling Program.
NOAA Fisheries announced the two programs this week, saying
the food habit data is helping them better understand how ecosystems work, and
to monitor fish populations that are difficult for research gear to sample.
Octopus, for example, are hard to catch in research trawl
nets and other fishing gear, so it is challenging to determine the size of
octopus populations and how well they are doing.
In the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, cod consistently eat
octopus, so researchers have examined cod stomachs from this area for over
three decades and have ben able to estimate production and mortality rates of
octopus and determine precautionary fishing limits for octopus in this region.
The Resource Ecology and Ecosystem Modeling Groundfish Diet
Data Tool 
includes a database of every prey type found in stomachs of key marine fish species
caught during NOAA research surveys in Alaska waters.
The Alaska Marine Ecosystem Considerations Database,,
includes annually updated news about environmental and other conditions that
may be affecting Alaska marine ecosystems, including the Eastern Bering Sea,
the Gulf of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and the High Arctic.
The ecosystem database also includes detailed assessments of
ecosystem condition and handy report cards that provide a snapshot of the
status for a variety of ecosystem indicators such as predator abundance,
seabird reproductive success, human socio-economic factors, plankton size and
“The possibilities for how these data may help advance
science, resource management and classroom learning are limitless, Aydin said.

Another resource of interest is the Stomach Examiner’s Tool,
an online tool for identifying Alaska prey including detailed photos of prey
parts most often found in fish stomachs, is at