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The Deep

Earlier this month, AMCC hosted The Deep: a public event exploring facets of fisheries that are underrepresented in fisheries management. We were joined by three phenomenal speakers from around the nation: Dennis Lees, Carmel Finley and Steve Langdon. Recordings of their presentations will be available soon.


Mr. Lees provided a deep dive into seafloor composition, underscoring that the history of sampling excluded some of the most important contributors to the food web. Research to remedy these omissions is particularly timely and highly relevant for considerations of the Bristol Bay Red King Crab Savings Area. His research has shown that the deepest components of infauna, which he relates to “trees” on land, are ecosystem engineers in addition to being a substantial source of food through sublethal predation. “Trees” contribute to:


  • Major sediment stabilization: Modiolus, worm tubes, sand dollars, brittle stars

  • Major sediment destabilization: bioturbation by burrowing organisms - burrowing worms, sand dollars

  • Creating habitat, increasing biodiversity

  • Predatory control of density of many species

  • Facilitating geochemical interactions: burrowing animals are critical for oxygenation

  • Flushing ammonia, contaminants and hypoxic water out of sediments down to a depth of 10 m 

  • Reducing eutrophic effects of detrital matter by consumption




Dr. Finley described the political history that spurred the creation of management concepts we grapple with today in fisheries management, including Maximum Sustained Yield (MSY). MSY is rooted in the concept of Surplus Production Theory, which was modeled for fisheries using tuna, which fleets around the world were pursuing at that time. The “tuna-shaped surplus production hypothesis” relied on several characteristics of that species which subsequently became extrapolated across species and regions, creating problems today. These extrapolated assumptions were: 


  • Very rapid growth and repeated spawning, so very dynamic

  • Influenced by ocean winds and currents, so it would be possible to predict good fishing conditions

  • Fish are evenly distributed, and population structure is not important

  • Conclusions about specific fish were generalized 




Dr. Langdon provided an overview of Indigenous Alaskan Environmental Knowledge, practice and significance. In his presentation, he introduced a term, existencescape, to guide listeners through understanding the shaping and expression of worldviews. Paraphrased from his presentation: 


Humans receive and create a stream of sensations, which are interpreted through both physiological and cognitive processes. Constructions of meaning – and the basis of much behavior – arise through mediated processes that rely on concepts and understandings that are learned and are the basis for creative engagements – both social and environmental. Existencescapes comprise the realm of possible understandings, behaviors and creative responses, and become embodied perception shared with other members of a cultural group allowing mutual understanding.




It was a privilege to hear firsthand the valuable knowledge of each of these experts, and we are grateful to everyone who joined us to learn from them. Together, we can create a culture of awareness and deep respect that honors the complex ecosystem that gives us life. 


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