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NOAA takes temperature of the Bering Sea in annual Bottom Trawl Survey

Bristol Bay Times - KUCB photo

How cold is the water in the Bering Sea? That’s what a group of researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wants to know.

NOAA is currently out in the Aleutian Islands running their annual Eastern Bering Sea Bottom Trawl Survey.

They’ve been running annual surveys since the 1970s, mainly to collect data on the distribution and abundance of bottom-dwelling species like crab and groundfish.

But this year they’re paying special attention to the cold pool—a section of bottom water that stays cold through the summer. It affects everything from when fish spawn to what part of the ocean they live in.

It also acts as a barrier that keeps Arctic species separate from fish like pollock and cod, two of the most commercially important species in the region.

The cold pool has shrunk significantly in recent years, which could disrupt the fragile ecosystem.

“From a fisheries standpoint, there is always year to year variability in the cold pool,” said Maggie Mooney-Seus, communications program manager for the administration’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center. “The main concern is that the overall trend across time shows declining sea ice and warmer ocean temperatures.”

NOAA is releasing data in real time and is expected to post their final results in September.

“This information is valuable for planning for fishermen, local community members and resource managers. It enables them to better prepare and adapt to future conditions,” said Mooney-Seus.

You can follow along with the researchers at NOAA Fisheries.