To broaden the U.S. AMLR Program’s knowledge of the unique ichthyofauna and benthic fauna of Antarctica and to foster collaborations with other U.S. and international researchers, AERD Research Fisheries Biologist Christopher Jones and NOAA contractor Susanne Lockhart are currently aboard the German ship R/V Polarstern in the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. Among the proposed cruise studies are investigating the effects of finfish fisheries and climate change on the distributions, abundances, and population structures of benthic communities by examining a range of genetic, physiological, and reproductive traits that may affect the abilities of these organisms to adapt to a changing ecosystem. Dr. Jones will focus his efforts on evaluating the distribution, abundance, and state of fish stocks using haul data collected from a bottom trawl survey conducted in the regions around Elephant Island, Joinville Island, and the South Shetland Islands. Dr. Lockhart will focus on the detection of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) by examining the benthic invertebrates recovered from bottom trawls for VME indicator taxa, which are certain benthic invertebrates recognized by the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) as rare, unique, densely clustered, or contributing to the three-dimensional structure of an area.
The R/V Polarstern departed Punta Arenas, Chile, on 13 March 2012, and is scheduled to return to Punta Arenas on 9 April 2012. Below are the weekly reports from the cruise.