Northeast climate integrated modeling to meet ocean decision challenges
The Northeast U.S. shelf ecosystem is a complex and changing region that supports a wide array of living marine resources and resource-dependent human communities. Fisheries in the Northeast are a key part of the economy of the region. They contributed $7 billion to the regional economy and provided 177,000 jobs in 2015, and they have been part of the social fabric of coastal communities for generations. This economic productivity is threatened by the rapid changes underway in this ecosystem, and the limited use of climate data in the assessment and management process amplifies the challenges facing this industry and the communities that rely on it. Over the last 40 years, the waters of the northwest Atlantic have warmed at a rate over three times the global average, and recent decadal warming is among the fastest in the world. This warming has already led to geographic shifts in commercial species and declines in economically and culturally important stocks. Due to the rapid pace of change in the region, there is a critical need to develop and apply scientific knowledge and tools that can help fisheries decision-making be responsive to climate change. Fisheries-related decision making has relied on past experience as a predictor of future changes. As climate change accelerates, there is a ritical need to anticipate changes in the future of fisheries that have not occurred in the past. The goal of our proposed research is to develop an integrated modeling framework to inform marine resource decision-making under projected climate change in the Northeast U.S. This framework will integrate: 1) global climate models, 2) regional oceanographic models, 3) ecosystem and population models, and 4) human dimensions models. We will demonstrate the utility of this integrated modeling framework to inform fisheries decision challenges for species that have demonstrated shifts in distribution and changes in productivity. We will focus our efforts on Northeast stocks that are scheduled for upcoming research track stock assessments (Atlantic cod and black sea bass), providing a direct path for our work to be applied in management. We anticipate the following capacity development from this effort, including the ability to: 1) identify and anticipate major ecosystem changes that influence multiple stocks or management decisions, 2) inform decision-making around impacts of shifting species, and 3) inform decision- making around changes in stock productivity.
This research specifically addresses the objectives of NOAA’s CAFA program for projects focused on Understanding Climate Impacts on Fish Stocks and Fisheries to Inform Sustainable Fisheries Management by developing innovative, applicable and transferable approaches for fisheries decision making in a changing climate. We will develop tools that aim to reduce the impacts of changing climate and ocean conditions on living marine resources and increase the resilience of these resources and the people, businesses, and communities that depend on them.