April 17, 2014
Alaska has some of the most successful commercial fisheries on the planet. One of the reasons that Alaska has been so successful with resource management is its requirement and reliance on some of the best research in the world. Alaska animals are counted by air, foot, snowmobile, boat and my favorite, scuba gear.
Underwater research is conducted throughout the state, and one of the biggest programs is in Southeast Alaska. The Southeast dive team consists of 24 divers, a mix of commercial fisheries area management biologists, assistant area biologists, herring and shellfish research biologists, and a few biologists from other divisions.
Each year the dive program coordinator sends out a list of planned dive trips for the season and everyone signs up. Starting in March, the state research vessel Kestrel travels to each research area with a different set of divers to conduct the preplanned dive transects. Each year, all of the major herring stocks in Southeast Alaska are surveyed, and 10 or so trips for shellfish assessment are conducted throughout the summer. An average trip lasts seven to 10 days.