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Seasonal Forecasting Applications for Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management in the Eastern Bering Sea

As part of the NOAA Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) Program, the NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center, the OAR Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, and the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean at the University of Washington have collaborated to produce seasonal forecasts of the eastern Bering Sea as part of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Ecosystem Status Report. The forecasts incorporate dynamically-downscaling climate information into a regional ocean model coupled to a nutrient- phytoplankton-zooplankton model for the Bering Sea (called Bering10K hereafter). Bering10K model has been tested for the past four years with promising results for a 9-month lead-time forecast of the Bering Sea Cold Pool, a major habitat feature of bottom temperature that determines fish and crab recruitment and distribution. As fish and crab from the eastern Bering Sea account for over 40% of the annual catches in the United States, we envision seasonal forecasts of the Cold Pool, sea-ice cover, ocean temperature, and other outputs to be of interest to numerous stakeholders, from resource management agencies and coastal communities to research institutions and industry service providers. To date, our forecasts have provided direct guidance, in the management council setting, for determining the outlook for key stocks such as Bering Sea walleye pollock and snow crab.

This project would further develop our seasonal forecasting ability, focusing on both technical improvement and applicability. Our goals are to: 1) conduct systematic re-forecasting experiments, driving our regional model with an ensemble of global re-forecasts to assess regional skill and sources of predictability; 2) expand from our present use of NOAA’s Climate Forecast System (CFS) to include other members of the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME); 3) fine tune our regional models to improve accuracy in 9-month forecasts of key environmental features such as sea-ice cover, cold pool, and water column temperature; 4) develop seasonal outlooks of environmental indices as well as fish and crab distribution and recruitment which are management relevant and consistent with ecosystem based management; and 5) conduct a workshop in collaboration with stakeholders from management, fishing industry and Alaskan Native communities to identify additional type, format, extent and frequency of information that would be most useful to those stakeholders for forecast delivery, and design and deliver final products accordingly.

This proposal targets the MAPP competition, specifically on the priority to predict seasonal impacts on the distribution and abundance of fish stocks or other living marine resources. This project will directly increase the production, delivery, and use of climate-related information in fisheries management by producing and applying seasonal environmental predictions directly to the management of living marine resources as per the MAPP topical area. In particular, we have established a direct link between the Bering10K model and fisheries management: seasonal forecasts relevant to managed stocks are provided each year to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in the direct context of groundfish and crab quota setting, informing final decisions on modifying recommended quotas. Thus, it responds directly to the NOAA long-term climate goals of applying modeling and prediction to maintaining the sustainability of marine ecosystems.

Climate Risk Area: Marine Ecosystems

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