Field Initiative Title: Alaska Deep-Sea Coral and Sponge Initiative (AKCSI)

The U.S. EEZ in Alaska (3.3 million km2) contains more than 70% of the nations’ continental shelf supporting a diverse collection of abundant fishes and invertebrates, many of which are harvested by commercial fishing. Deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems are widespread throughout most of Alaska’s marine waters. In some places, such as the western Aleutian Islands, these may be the most diverse and abundant cold-water coral and sponge communities in the world.

A number of important research questions that need to be addressed for effective management of these ecosystems have been identified by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, Essential Fish Habitat Research and a 2020 Deep Coral and Sponge Priorities Workshop. The Alaska Deep-Sea Coral and Sponge Initiative (AKCSI) will address the region’s objectives by undertaking a number of research projects in fiscal years 2020-2023.

The AKCSI fieldwork will locate and characterize deep coral and sponge ecosystems in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands through a systematic field survey supporting a probabilistic distribution model. The AKCSI will also incorporate projects that research the biology and ecology of deep coral and sponge ecosystems by identifying population level recovery rates and sustainable levels of impacts for Primnoa and studying species associations and production of commercial fish and invertebrates from coral and sponge communities. Projects that improve understanding of deep coral and sponge biodiversity and ecology will be included through collection of specimens to resolve taxonomic issues and genetic connectivity between North Pacific populations. Finally, the potential effects of climate change and ocean acidification will be addressed by projects that set up cost-effective long-term monitoring for environmental variables that impact deep coral and sponge communities.

At the conclusion of this initiative, we hope to have advanced the knowledge of deep sponge and coral ecology in Alaska so that management of these resources can be based on a scientific understanding of how human and climate effects influence the communities. 

Fiscal Funding:
  • FY 2020 @ $200,000
  • FY 2021 @ $1,000,000
  • FY 2022 @ $1,000,000
  • FY 2023 @ $100,000
Total Funding:


  • North Pacific Council
  • Aleutian Islands
  • Bering Sea
  • Gulf of Alaska
Point of Contact: Office of the Point of Contact:
Participating Offices:
  • OER
  • PMEL
Field Initiative Title: Alaska Deep-Sea Coral and Sponge Initiative (AKCSI)
There are no projects defined at this time.