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Robust Management Strategies for Northeast Groundfish Fisheries in a Changing Climate

The Northeast U.S. Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem (NESLME) has experienced recent decadal warming that is faster than 99.9% of the global ocean and the impacts of climate change on fishery resources are increasing. Some groundfish stocks, such as Georges Bank cod, have declined to record-low biomass in recent years whereas others, such as Georges Bank haddock, have increased to record-high biomass. Such shifts in productivity may be responses to recent warming and associated oceanographic changes. Our goal is to develop fisheries management procedures that incorporate climate-driven changes and evaluate whether these environmentally-informed policies result in more adaptive and successful management. We will accomplish this by using management strategy evaluation (MSE), a modeling framework that links fish life history (including responses to environmental trends), fishing fleet behavior, population assessment and management procedures.  MSE can quantify the expected impact of a range of potential management decisions, making it an important component of structured decision-making. Overall this research will help stakeholders better understand the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems and help develop of strategies to meet the societal challenges associated with these climate-driven changes.

Specifically, our research: 1) evaluates how principal groundfish stocks will respond to regional climate change; 2) investigates plausible approaches to tailoring fisheries management procedures to the prevailing environmental state, including climate-informed or climate-responsive stock assessments, biological reference points, and harvest control rules; and 3) quantifies the expected ecological and economic performance of the management procedures in a changing climate.