March 12, 2020

20th year of North Pacific Continous Plankton Recorder (CPR) sampling featured at PICES

Participants of Workshop 5 at PICES-2019, Victoria, Canada. Credit: Sonia Batten.

As October 2019 marked the completion of the 20th year of North Pacific Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) sampling, a celebratory workshop was held at the PICES Annual Meeting to look forward as well as review past accomplishments. Further, the two decades of work was spotlighted in the PICES winter newsletter (vol 28, no 1). The CPR program began to fill th gap for open ocean plankton sampling to better understand fisheries dynamics, especially salmonids that spend their early lives in the subarctic gyre ecosystems. At the progam onset in 2000, six monthly CPR tows during spring through summer on the California to Alaska route were undertaken; additionally, a single trans-Pacific transect from the west coast of North America to Asia was conducted. In 2002 onwards, additional funding led to three trans-Pacific transects in spring, summer and autumn, followed by transects into Alaska beginning in 2004 from Juan de Fuca Strait, across the Gulf of Alaska to Cook Inlet. Eventually, a funding consortium was set up, administered by PICES, so several agencies could contribute modest amounts in their area of interest (much less than the full costs of acquiring the data) and by the leveraging that this generated, ensured more financial security for the program. Contributors to the consortium over the years have included the North Pacific Research Board, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council (through the Gulf Watch Alaska program), Fisheries and Oceans Canada, SAHFOS, the Marine Biological Association (UK), PICES, JAMSTEC, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency, and Hokkaido University.

As of 2019, over 30,000 CPR samples have been collected and stored in the archive. One-third of the samples have been microscopically processed giving information on distribution and abundance for over 400 taxa (larger phytoplankton, some microzooplankton and mesozooplankton), and some additional components of the pelagic environment such as pollen and microplastics. Overall, the survey has achieved the vision of those who sought to bring it to PICES at the very first meeting, recognizing the need for seasonal plankton data in the open ocean and coasts of the PICES region. It has had a successful first 20 years, and is in a good position to contribute to PICES science for years to come.