CHAPTER 2

COASTAL FISHERIES ECOSYSTEMS

Introduction

Fisheries in coastal and estuarine ecosystems are experiencing increasing pressures. Stocks have been overfished and estuarine habitats degraded to the extent that potential productivity and fishery yields are reduced below optimum sustainable levels. Some stock declines and collapses have occurred because scientists have insufficient knowledge to predict future trends in abundance or to advise managers with regard to sustainable yields, whereas others have occurred because of a failure to apply available knowledge.

Declines of fish stocks and their productivity are associated with declines in recruitment of catchable-size fish to the populations and high temporal variability in recruitment, eventually limiting harvests. Predicting recruitment success, the total number of catchable-size fish added to a population in a given year, has been a goal of fisheries science for many decades. Results of recruitment research may eventually lead to reliable forecasts of future productivity and abundances of fished stocks.

The decline of U.S. fisheries, the lack of understanding of mechanisms that control and regulate fish stocks, and a need for a predictive capability to forecast future trends in abundance led to the development of the Coastal Fisheries Ecosystems (CFE) theme. Fisheries ecosystems are biologically and physically complex systems that can only be understood as a result of long-term research carried out by interdisciplinary teams. In CFE, NOAA and academic scientists have collaborated to conduct multi-year programs that include the expertise of fisheries biologists, physical oceanographers, ecologists, animal behaviorists, molecular



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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) CHAPTER 2 COASTAL FISHERIES ECOSYSTEMS Introduction Fisheries in coastal and estuarine ecosystems are experiencing increasing pressures. Stocks have been overfished and estuarine habitats degraded to the extent that potential productivity and fishery yields are reduced below optimum sustainable levels. Some stock declines and collapses have occurred because scientists have insufficient knowledge to predict future trends in abundance or to advise managers with regard to sustainable yields, whereas others have occurred because of a failure to apply available knowledge. Declines of fish stocks and their productivity are associated with declines in recruitment of catchable-size fish to the populations and high temporal variability in recruitment, eventually limiting harvests. Predicting recruitment success, the total number of catchable-size fish added to a population in a given year, has been a goal of fisheries science for many decades. Results of recruitment research may eventually lead to reliable forecasts of future productivity and abundances of fished stocks. The decline of U.S. fisheries, the lack of understanding of mechanisms that control and regulate fish stocks, and a need for a predictive capability to forecast future trends in abundance led to the development of the Coastal Fisheries Ecosystems (CFE) theme. Fisheries ecosystems are biologically and physically complex systems that can only be understood as a result of long-term research carried out by interdisciplinary teams. In CFE, NOAA and academic scientists have collaborated to conduct multi-year programs that include the expertise of fisheries biologists, physical oceanographers, ecologists, animal behaviorists, molecular

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) biologists, biochemists, and others. These collaborations have promoted intellectual exchange and the development and application of new technology. The CFE theme focuses on regional, resource-specific problems and supports research into the mechanisms that regulate or control abundances of important fishery resources (COP, 1993a). It promotes mission-oriented fisheries oceanography, distinguishing CFE programs from other evolving programs on fishery ecosystems [e.g., Global Oceans Ecosystems Dynamics (GLOBEC); see GLOBEC, 1992], which also pursue fundamental science goals, but which do not necessarily focus on specific regions or on particular exploited species. The potential for long-term funding (≥5 years) through CFE offers an opportunity to solve oceanographic and ecosystem-level problems that have not yielded to lesser efforts over the past 50 years. Long-term funding at a high level (about $500,000 to $ 1 million annually per program), the team approach of CFE, and regional projects distinguishes it from research funded by Sea Grant and other extramural fisheries research programs. A major goal of the NOAA strategic plan (NOAA, 1993a) is the restoration of sustainable fishery resources. The CFE theme is highly visible as a cross-cutting element within NOAA that will help to address this strategic goal, as well as a second goal, the promotion of ecosystem health. The concept of CFE research was included in COP from its outset (NOAA, 1991). Regional projects were envisioned, to be focused on problems associated with valuable exploited fisheries. As COP was implemented, CFE concept papers and proposals were considered. Two initial projects were accepted and funded in FY 1991. These were Bering Sea Fisheries Oceanography Coordinated Investigations (Bering Sea FOCI) and the South Atlantic Bight Recruitment Experiment (SABRE). The original COP intent was to expand the CFE theme in a deliberate way by adding at least four additional programs, perhaps one or two per year, during the 1990s (COP, 1991; 1993), as additional funds were appropriated by Congress for COP. A third program, Predation and Structure of the Georges Bank Ecosystem, initially was funded in FY 1993. Two additional programs were accepted in principle as possible future additions to CFE. They are Fishery Oceanography Research and Groundfish Ecology (FORAGE), a proposed study of groundfish recruitment variability on the U.S. west coast, and Salmonid Ecosystems Analysis (SEA), a proposed study of ocean survival of salmon (COP, 1991). Several additional concept papers have been considered by CFE during the past 4 years (COP, 1990; 1991a; NOAA, 1991). Budgets of accepted CFE programs did not reach requested or anticipated levels (COP, 1991a; 1993a), in some cases making original goals of CFE programs unrealistic. Reductions in sampling efforts and other adjustments to proposed research were made by CFE program managers to accommodate budget shortfalls. No new pro-

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) grams were to be funded in FY 1994 (COP, 1993a). The budget shortfalls are a major concern of presently funded programs and cloud future possibilities for expansion of CFE research. As part of its overall responsibility to COP, the panel has previously provided advice regarding CFE, in particular its development, inclusion of elements, management structure, and review and selection procedures. In the present review, the panel evaluates CFE accomplishments since FY 1991 and provides advice on future development and evolution of the CFE theme. The present review included site visits and in-depth examinations of the Bering Sea FOCI and SABRE programs. These two programs had been funded for 3 years at the time of the review. The PoCO fisheries subgroup carried out the site visits in January 1994. Detailed evaluations of progress, achievements, utility, and planning for each program, as well as recommendations for future research directions, are provided in Appendix 1 and Appendix 2. Goals and Objectives The goals and objectives of CFE have remained essentially unchanged since the implementation of the theme in FY 1991. They are far-reaching and comprehensive (NOAA, 1991; COP, 1993a) and focus on problems that impede or prevent progress in understanding fundamental mechanisms which control fish population abundances and thus limit effectiveness of management. The CFE theme supports mission-oriented, ecosystem research on fisheries ecosystems. The goal of CFE is to reduce uncertainty in resource management decisions through ecological research (NOAA, 1991; COP, 1993a). This goal is appropriate for a COP theme because it promotes cross-cutting research activities and provides opportunities that involve two NOAA line offices [the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR)] and many academic partners. The theme and its goal are supportive of interdisciplinary research that may be funded for 5 or more years. Prior to CFE, there were few mechanisms within NOAA or other agencies to undertake research in fisheries oceanography at the ecosystem level. A notable and unique exception is Shelikof FOCI, which is jointly supported by NOAA's NMFS and OAR, and which includes academic partners (COP, 1991a; NOAA, 1993b). CFE has three objectives. Each is phrased as a question and highlights a major scientific issue related to understanding variability in fish stock abundances (COP, 1993a).

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) Recruitment variability: What are the processes that control recruitment, and to what degree can a better understanding of these processes be used for improved management decisions? Compensatory mechanisms: What are the mechanisms that lead to biological feedback (e.g., compensation) that control marine populations, and how can these mechanisms, which stabilize populations, be quantified? Species interactions: To what extent do resource populations interact, both within and between trophic levels as predators and prey (i.e., does the abundance of one affect the abundance of another), and how can these interactions be considered in management strategies? The panel supports these objectives which are focused on three central issues in fisheries science. The objectives focus on fundamental yet complex processes that, if understood, could provide predictive capabilities of clear benefit to fishery management. The objectives and the issues that they represent have been largely intractable in the past, but CFE partnerships and long-term support promise to enable significant progress. CFE programs such as Bering Sea FOCI may develop effective models to predict recruitment of single year classes. Results from the similar Shelikof FOCI, which has been operational since 1986, are being used as one of several approaches to forecast trends in pollock recruitment and population abundance in the Gulf of Alaska. Shelikof FOCI data have added a new dimension to the general understanding of the oceanographic processes that impact recruitment. Emphasis on the three objectives varies among programs supported by CFE. Both Bering Sea FOCI and SABRE emphasize the complex interactions between biology and physics that act on early life stages and which can lead to recruitment variability. The Georges Bank program emphasizes species interactions within the fish community and compensatory relationships that may regulate population and community structure. Species interactions, particularly trophic relationships, are elements of research in each of the funded programs. Other aspects of species interactions, including complex behavioral or habitat-mediated interactions, could be included in the future because they also can have important consequences for population regulation. The panel believes that the CFE goal and objectives are relevant to NOAA's mission as elaborated in the NOAA strategic plan (NOAA, 1993a). Although suitable now, CFE's goal and objectives should be examined periodically to insure that they retain their relevance, permit innovative and rigorous research within available budgets, and allow new concepts or ideas to evolve.

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) Progress and Quality The three CFE programs are in relatively early stages of their development. At the time of this review, Bering Sea FOCI and SABRE had completed three years of their projected 5-year durations while the Georges Bank program had completed its first year. The successful planning and implementation of the CFE theme represents a significant achievement. Opportunities to support fishery oceanography programs that are truly interdisciplinary and which emphasize ecosystem-level science are rare. The panel commends NOAA and COP for their foresight in instituting the CFE programs, which not only include expertise from various NOAA line offices but also attract academic scientists to fundamental science programs which will benefit fishery management. CFE has successfully launched three major programs on important regional fishery ecosystems and has forged partnerships which are unusual in NOAA. Without COP and CFE, it is unlikely that NOAA would have made such significant investments in fisheries oceanography. It is too early, after only three years of CFE research, to expect major breakthroughs in understanding ecosystem-level processes that affect recruitment variability. Successful implementation of three programs and the formation of NOAA-academic partnerships are regarded by the panel as significant CFE achievements. Among other notable achievements that were recognized are: advances in sampling technology (e.g., optical egg counters in SABRE), innovative modeling efforts (e.g., three-dimensional models to narrow the search for menhaden spawning areas, in SABRE), and application of new biomolecular methods to classical fishery problems (e.g., molecular stock identification in Bering Sea FOCI and biochemical measures of condition index in SABRE). The investment in CFE of additional non-COP NOAA resources (e.g., research vessel time, instrumentation, and salary support) has augmented CFE funding. Such investments are especially important to program quality because CFE budgets did not grow to expected levels. The panel noted that a significant number of refereed journal papers (see Table 1.1) already have been published by CFE investigators, indicating that CFE investigators are making serious attempts to transfer information to the scientific and management communities. Utility of the Research Research supported by CFE will provide knowledge that, if successful, will be useful for resource management and is supportive of the NOAA strategic plan (NOAA, 1993a). Developing a predictive capability to forecast recruitment and to understand how environmental factors and adult stock abundances interact to control recruitment

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) levels are major goals of fishery managers. Evaluating species interactions, especially predator-prey relationships, is particularly important to managers who are concerned about the effects of fishing on fish community structure, productivity, and recruitment. If CFE programs are successful in improving fisheries forecasts, they may benefit the harvesting sector which often must contend with fluctuating stock levels and reactive management decisions. Better forecasts, based on CFE research results, would allow harvest adjustments to ensure maintenance of selected ecosystem management goals, at least in the short-term. Fish stocks fluctuate in response to fishing and to variability of the coastal and open ocean environments. CFE addresses the ocean variability issue. Development and application of regional models and new methods by CFE programs to sample the ocean will provide new tools for fishery scientists and managers. The panel saw evidence of technology transfer among CFE programs, for example the sharing of models and optical sampling techniques between SABRE and Bering Sea FOCI. Development and sharing of technology should be encouraged in CFE, to increase the utility and benefits of the research. Theme Management A hierarchy of management exists within the CFE theme (COP, 1993a; NOAA, 1993c). The top level administration of CFE is conducted through the National Coastal Ocean Program Office (NCOPO) and a Coastal Ocean Council consisting of senior representatives of the Assistant Administrators of NOAA's line offices. Below this level, the theme and each of its programs have parallel structures of small management committees composed of representatives from NMFS, OAR, and academia, and larger technical advisory groups with diverse representation. Primary responsibility for managing CFE lies in the Program Management Committee (PMC). Working with the COP Director, the PMC is responsible for top-level review and analysis, long-range planning, setting priorities, oversight, and ultimately for implementations of plans and programs. Recommendations to NCOPO with respect to selection of CFE programs and funding levels are made by the PMC. It also has responsibilities to insure that individual programs are managed well and reviewed properly. Initially, the PMC consisted of three persons, one representative each from NMFS and OAR, and one academic representative. Recently, the PMC was supplemented with an additional representative (COP, 1993a), from COP. There is little evidence that the PMC presently is an active body providing necessary leadership and oversight to CFE programs. The recent resignation of the academic representative has

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) left the academic component of the partnership unrepresented on the PMC. The PMC could be more effective if it had a chairperson, who would take primary responsibility for its activities. At present it is a “troika,” and responsibilities for action are not defined sufficiently to assure the committee's effectiveness. It is essential that the PMC be active to promote future CFE planning and coordination of CFE. Each CFE program has a Project Management Committee with representatives from NOAA and academia. These committees are critical to the success of CFE programs because they constitute the leadership within a CFE program and will, to a large degree, determine the course of action of each program. It is intended that the Project Management Committees interact regularly with the Program Management Committee (COP, 1993a, NOAA, 1993c), although interactions are neither regular nor formal. A Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), which consists of 29 NOAA and academic scientists, was formed to provide advice and guidance to the PMC on concepts, proposals, research plans, and other technical aspects of CFE programs or program planning (COP, 1993a; NOAA, 1993c). The TAC has met three times since FY 1991 and played an active role when CFE programs were being proposed and selected. The committee has been inactive for nearly two years, a consequence of reduced budgets and the inability of CFE to add new programs. This inactivity also reflects the evolution of CFE from a planning to operational mode. The panel believes that the TAC is too large and includes members with perceived or real conflicts of interest. Program Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs) have been appointed by each of the CFE programs. These groups presently include members from academia, NOAA, industry, the national laboratories of other agencies, and state agencies. They review progress and provide advice regarding research plans. CFE programs have included investigators from other CFE programs on their TAGs; this is a desirable way to promote cross-fertilization among CFE programs. Each CFE program has used ad hoc reviewers to review proposals and to offer advice from time to time on projects or plans. The use of ad hoc reviewers is especially important to obtain independent peer review of proposals for new projects. There does not appear, however, to be a standardized CFE process to select or use ad hoc reviewers; CFE and COP should remedy this deficiency. External review of CFE is provided by PoCO, which has devoted its attention to the quality of science, management, and the planning process (NRC, 1991; NOAA, 1993c). External review also was provided by the Coastal Ocean Policy Roundtable (COPR), an ad hoc group of experts in management and policy who reviewed COP and

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) the CFE theme with an emphasis on utility and applications of research (COPR, 1992; NOAA, 1993c). COP is planning to commission a subsequent review of the utility of its research. When CFE was initiated in FY 1990, requests for concept papers were widely advertized (COP, 1990; 1991a; NOAA, 1991). The desirability of NOAA-academic partnerships was emphasized in the request for proposals. Several concept papers were received by NCOPO (NOAA, 1991) and were reviewed by the CFE TAC. Recommendations for funding were made by the PMC. Initially, two programs were selected for funding, and a third was subsequently selected. Solicitation, review, and selection of proposals were conducted separately by each of the funded programs and processes apparently differed somewhat among programs. In some cases, NOAA and academic proposals were reviewed similarly. In other cases, the review criteria and process seemed to differ. A variety of procedures has been used by CFE programs to terminate or add projects after a program has started. Procedures used in CFE need to be standardized and need to ensure that the review process has integrity. In retrospect, the CFE planning process was too optimistic about presumed levels of funding in later years of the theme. As a consequence, initial plans by funded programs have required revision and the directions of research modified to adjust to lower funding levels. Additional programs that were approved in principle, and might have been implemented, were not funded. Responsiveness to Past Reviews There was little formal review of the overall CFE theme or its programs prior to this effort. An earlier review by PoCO endorsed the selection of SABRE and Bering Sea FOCI (NRC, 1991). It also expressed concerns and provided advice about feasibility or directions of those programs and other nonselected programs. NCOPO and representatives of CFE programs considered and responded to panel recommendations in 1991. 5 The CFE TAC met three times and provided advice to the CFE PMC. The CFE TAC recommended that SABRE and Bering Sea FOCI be funded. The TAC also made 5   COP Review comments related to 1991 PoCO review report, accompanying a March 18, 1992 letter from Under Secretary John Knauss to OSB Chairman Carl Wunsch.

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) numerous other recommendations (COP, 1993a) with respect to plans, implementation, and guidance for CFE programs. Program TAGs are potentially valuable sources of advice and review. It is not clear that they have played a significant role yet in advising Bering Sea FOCI and the Georges Bank program because they were only recently formed, but the SABRE TAG has been well utilized as a valuable source of objective and critical advice. Future Plans and Theme Recommendations The CFE theme has not grown and evolved as planned because of near-level COP funding. Both SABRE and Bering Sea FOCI had expected to receive funding at approximately twice their initial levels (COP, 1991a; 1993a) in succeeding years, and the Georges Bank program has been funded at a level far below expectations. Plans should be developed by the CFE theme within the next 2 years, regarding new research or continuations of present programs. A planning process should be instituted now. It must assume realistic budget levels in the future. Several recommendations from the panel on future CFE management, planning, and implementation are listed below. It is appropriate that CFE maintain its present goals and objectives, at least through its first 5 years, until FY 1995. Goals and objectives for CFE in succeeding years should evolve through a planning process led by the PMC and including the active involvement of NOAA and academic scientists in workshops or other planning meetings. CFE must communicate to the scientific community, both within NOAA and in academia, plans regarding CFE evolution and mechanisms for future program selection. Revitalized strategic planning must be initiated now, to provide a vision for the CFE theme in its second five years. The panel's recommendations fall into two general categories: 1) science planning and 2) program management. Science Planning The goals and objectives of the CFE theme should be assessed before the second 5 years of the theme is planned. A workshop involving the PMC and a reconstituted TAC (or other reviewers) could accomplish this task. The scientific community must know soon what emphasis CFE will have in the future.

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) The NOAA-academic partnership and the mission-oriented nature of CFE must be maintained, and opportunities to enhance scientific efforts, to improve quality, or to leverage resources through collaborative efforts with related programs should be pursued. Future plans and directions of CFE should indicate an awareness of related fishery oceanography programs funded by other agencies or mechanisms, such as GLOBEC, Shelikof FOCI, and the South East Florida and Caribbean Recruitment Studies (SEFCAR). Interaction and collaborations among CFE programs should be required in the future. This requirement will improve resource sharing, technology development, and information transfer. Mechanisms to assure interactions should be specified. The Program Management Committee and Project Management Committees should work together to facilitate interactions among programs. COP should seek to integrate CFE programs with other COP activities in Coastal Ecosystem Health and Coastal Hazards, where feasible. There are obvious relationships among environmental quality, physical oceanography, and coastal fisheries. Fisheries management goals should be fully considered in scientific studies throughout CFE programs, rather than insulating science from management until the science is completed. Program Management The NOAA-academic partnership and the approximately equal sharing of COP budget support (see Table 1.1 ) is a unique strength of CFE that draws together highly competent researchers. This strength should be maintained in future plans. The Program Management Committee is the major oversight/planning entity of CFE. It needs to be reconstituted and to assume a leadership role for the theme. At least one academic scientist should be appointed to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of the previous academic representative. The PMC's responsibilities must be reconsidered in light of the existence of functioning Project Management Committees. A PMC Chair should be designated to insure leadership, direction, and coordination of this top management body.

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) The CFE Technical Advisory Committee should be reconstituted and its membership reduced from 29 individuals to 8 or fewer. Members should represent NOAA, academic, and other institutional perspectives. Members should not have either perceived or real conflicts-of-interest with ongoing or proposed CFE programs. It is desirable that a member of PoCO be invited to TAC meetings to facilitate communication between the two review groups. The Program Management Committee should consider the possibility of using the CFE TAC in place of individual program advisory groups for future programs, which would improve the linkages among programs. The TAC should remain active during the operational phases of programs to assist the PMC. Because of budget limitations, alternative funding mechanisms should be considered in CFE's second 5 years. Under an alternative scenario, the CFE PMC might phase planned annual activities of each program and allocate funding accordingly. For example, major field efforts or experiments by a program would draw augmented support in a given year, with lower support provided in other years for planning and/or analysis activities. Under this alternative mechanism, budget levels and levels of research activity of each CFE program would change significantly from year to year, but sufficient levels of funding for programs in their sampling or data collection phases would be ensured. This approach is not without difficulties, however, and to be successful would require contingency plans if funding were delayed or projects progressed more slowly than anticipated. Contingency funds (perhaps 5-10% or total CFE funding) should be made available on an annual basis for unanticipated CFE program emergencies and scientific opportunities. The PMC should recommend to the COP Director how to allocate such funds in each year. These funds could be used to augment the budgets of individual CFE programs or to promote program interactions through workshops or working group meetings among program scientists. The processes by which proposals are solicited and evaluated by CFE at both the theme and program level should be standardized. At the program level, these processes have been variable. NOAA, academic, and joint NOAA/academic proposals should be treated similarly. Peer review should be applied equally to all proposals. Guidelines for research proposals must be developed soon, in anticipation of a new call for proposals by CFE in FY 1996-2000. Both new and

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) continued (renewal) proposals should be considered. Proposals and concept papers that were evaluated previously, but not funded, must be resubmitted if their planners wish to compete for CFE resources. These proposed programs would be evaluated again in competition with other, new, concept papers. Renewal proposals should be reviewed fairly, with continued funding contingent upon past progress and the strength of a newly proposed scientific program. The planning task for the second five years of CFE should be underway before FY 1995 to inform the scientific community of CFE plans and scientific opportunities. The PMC and TAC, working with the NCOPO, can coordinate this process. The panel could review plans that may evolve. Finally, the panel reiterates its support for the CFE concept. The NOAA-academic partnerships and possibilities for long-term funding through CFE are providing rare opportunities to institute research programs in fishery oceanography that promote fundamental science, but which maintain regional, resource, and mission-oriented emphases. The CFE theme is supportive of the current NOAA strategic plan and is a positive step toward understanding coastal fisheries ecosystems, a step that could assist managers in attaining sustainable fishery harvests. Individual Programs—Assessments and Recommendations Bering Sea FOCI Bering Sea FOCI had its origins in the “Sitka Conference” (Sitka Symposium, 1988; COP, 1991b), held in 1988, in response to concerns over unregulated international fishing for walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) in the “doughnut hole” of the Bering Sea. Poor knowledge of stock structure and causes of recruitment variability were identified as two areas in need of scientific investigation. An earlier, and continuing, program on pollock recruitment processes in the Gulf of Alaska (Shelikof FOCI) provided a background of scientific expertise and experience (NOAA, 1993b) to develop the Bering Sea FOCI research plan, which was implemented in FY 1991. Bering Sea FOCI has been supported annually with a budget of $0.95 million. Principal scientists are from NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. In addition, several academic scientists are partners in the research. A site review and evaluation of Bering Sea FOCI was carried out by the panel in January 1994 (Appendix 1) in response to the CFE requirement that its programs be reviewed after their third year of support (COP, 1993a).

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) The stated goal of Bering Sea FOCI (COP, 1993b) is “to provide information which will lead to an increased yield of the walleye pollock fishery while maintaining the resource.” The program (COP, 1990; 1993a; NOAA, 1991) has two explicit objectives: Stock structure—define it by using genetic probes to examine the structure and its relationship to the physical environment. Recruitment Processes—study the biophysical environment of the shelf and slope of the eastern Bering Sea to examine processes critical to survival of eggs, larvae, and juvenile pollock. The efforts of Bering Sea FOCI are directed primarily at the recruitment variability objective of the CFE theme. Planned projects will also address the species interactions objective, and the possible regulatory role of cannibalism offers the potential to study compensatory mechanisms in the program. Research on transport processes from the Aleutian Basin to the slope-shelf environment in the eastern Bering Sea is a prominent part of Bering Sea FOCI. Larval sampling, plankton studies, and food-chain modeling are included in the research. Stock structure is being investigated by DNA analysis of adult pollock from five areas of the Bering Sea. The panel believes that one stated goal of Bering Sea FOCI should be reconsidered. Rather than “increase the yield of the walleye pollock fishery in the Bering Sea,” a better goal of the research program is to “increase understanding of production and recruitment processes, to ensure sustainable yields.” The panel endorses the two objectives of Bering Sea FOCI. The panel recommends that Bering Sea FOCI's objectives should evolve to focus on an ecosystem-oriented view of pollock population dynamics, if the Bering Sea FOCI budget increases. Bering Sea FOCI has made significant progress in: understanding the basinwide circulation of the Bering Sea and its hypothesized relationship to transport of pollock larvae; identifying important spawning and nursery areas of pollock; determining that food for larvae may be limiting; obtaining evidence that eddies may be important to larval pollock; and developing a food-chain model relevant to the larval pollock environment. Studies are underway on the dynamics of pollock early life stages and on their food resources. These studies will be coordinated with research on ocean physics in the 1994 field season. Bering Sea FOCI should increase its emphasis on coordinated biological and physical observations. More intensive and better planned sampling of pollock early life stages also are needed, which is a goal of the program in 1994. Initial results of genetic probe analyses have suggested that there are distinct stocks of pollock in the Bering Sea. A food chain model of lower trophic levels has been developed and is helping to direct the research on plankton.

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) Research not supported by Bering Sea FOCI, but which contributes to it, plays a valuable role in this program. For example, studies on stock structure and dynamics, and on behavior of larval and juvenile pollock by NMFS biologists are very relevant to Bering Sea FOCI. This NMFS research is an important NOAA contribution to CFE success. CFE research would be imperiled if NMFS funding for pollock research and stock assessments were diminished. Walleye pollock is the largest U.S. fishery (by weight of harvest), with harvest levels in excess of 1.0 million tons annually. The Bering Sea FOCI program investigates processes that are important to insure sustainability of that resource and to understand factors that can cause fluctuations in its abundance. Defining stock structure and its relationship to management of walleye pollock is a critical issue in the Bering Sea that the program is addressing. It is hoped that accurate forecasts of pollock recruitment will be products of Bering Sea FOCI. The critical examination of the Bering Sea environment (physics and biology) by Bering Sea FOCI will produce long-term benefits and knowledge of the region's oceanography and ecosystem, which harbors threatened marine mammal resources and is subject to intense fishing effort. The Bering Sea FOCI Management Committee (their “Executive Council”) consists of six scientists, representing PMEL, NMFS, and academic institutions. Planning and coordination of the program is directed by the Executive Council. A Bering Sea FOCI Technical Advisory Group was appointed recently, consisting of academic and industry representatives. The TAG's role is uncertain at this time, but it could play a significant role in future plan and project development. The Technical Advisory Group is strong and potentially useful. It should be called upon to review plans and project results. The panel also recommends that small working groups of program scientists be organized to develop hypotheses, plan research, evaluate progress, and assess needs to change directions in specific research areas. Leadership will emerge within the working groups that will benefit the projects and the program. Project solicitation, selection, and review have not been standardized in Bering Sea FOCI, although overall resources have been shared well between NOAA and academic partners. The method for proposal review and selection apparently has differed for NOAA and academic submittals. Projects have been terminated and new ones initiated as the program 's perceived needs have changed and as projects have been completed. The panel believes that the proposal solicitation and review process should be standardized in Bering Sea FOCI. Proposals from NOAA and academic scientists should be treated similarly. Both should receive objective peer review.

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) The panel believes that successful management and leadership of a CFE program requires equal and communicative participation by the three partners, i.e., OAR, NMFS, and academia. The present Executive Council may not represent the academic partners sufficiently, having only a single academic member on the six-member council. It is desirable for the program to think beyond its present objectives and look toward studies of the Bering Sea ecosystem, in which pollock is only one major resource. Future research might examine recruitment processes of Bering Sea fishes, with respect to important variables in this complex environment. For example, effects of sea ice, which can affect circulation, productivity, and probably fish recruitment in the Bering Sea, is not considered in the present Bering Sea FOCI. Additionally, complex trophic relationships, including interactions among fishes, sea birds, and mammals, must play a regulatory role with respect to recruitment of fishes but the relationships are little understood or studied at present. South Atlantic Bight Recruitment Experiment (SABRE) The concept of the South Atlantic Bight Recruitment Experiment (SABRE) had been nurtured during the 1980s by NOAA and academic scientists. With the advent of COP, SABRE became one of the two original programs that were supported (COP, 1990; 1991a; 1993a; NOAA, 1991). It has been supported with a budget of $1.0 million annually. SABRE targets Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) in the South Atlantic Bight (the zone between Cape Hatteras and Cape Canaveral), and focuses on recruitment processes that operate from the egg through juvenile stages. Menhaden, which is the largest tonnage fishery on the U.S. east coast, is representative of many coastal fishes that are estuarine-dependent during the juvenile stage of their life cycle. SABRE emphasizes the recruitment variability objective of the CFE theme. The approach of SABRE is to study the characteristics of survivors at “critical junctures” in their life history (COP, 1990; 1991a; SABRE, 1994). This approach is an alternative to more traditional approaches that depend on estimating mortality of early life stages. Birthdate distributions will be established by analyzing otolith ages of surviving fish at several life stages during their first year of life. Shifts in apparent birthdate distributions among life stages will allow SABRE investigators to judge how habitat, environment, and life stages interact to control recruitment. Participants in SABRE include scientists from the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and the NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center, as well as academic scientists from several institutions. SABRE recently completed its

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) third year of support by CFE. A site review of SABRE was carried out in January 1994 (Appendix 2). The goal of SABRE is to understand the relationship between variation in environmental factors and the variable recruitment of estuarine-dependent fishes in the South Atlantic Bight (COP, 1993a). The overlying philosophy of the program is that detailed investigation of survivors at several life stages will reveal how stage-specific and size-specific processes operated to control the resulting recruitment (COP, 1990). This “alternative approach,” as stated, would allow SABRE investigators to concentrate on habitats and life stages that are critical to survival or the recruitment process. The approach incorporates measurements and models of coastal ocean circulation to elucidate transport mechanisms. It depends on otolith-aging analyses of larvae and juveniles to characterize survivors. As SABRE has evolved, its emphasis has shifted toward the estuarine juvenile life stage. The shift is a consequence of program budgets that limit offshore sampling effort and the result of information in life-stage models, which suggest that a large fraction of the variability in menhaden recruitment occurs during the juvenile stage. The panel endorses the goal of SABRE and acknowledges that the alternative approach which SABRE has taken can make important contributions toward understanding recruitment variability in menhaden. A caveat is necessary: the emphasis now directed at estuarine-phase juveniles may not be balanced sufficiently by offshore efforts to characterize the little-known egg and youngest larval stages. However, given the existing logistical and budget constraints of CFE, the approach being taken by SABRE is a good alternative in the short term. SABRE has made significant progress. A strong management team and NOAA-academic partnership have been developed. Considerable progress has been made in characterizing late-stage larvae that enter estuaries in the study area. Studies on juveniles are progressing. Development of new sampling technologies (e.g., an optical egg sampler) and application of new larval condition indices based on biochemical measurements have been successful. The application of a three-dimensional (3-D), finite element circulation model shows promise to describe how larvae are transported from offshore to estuarine inlets. Otolith-aging of larvae and juveniles has been successful, which will allow the life-stage analyses to proceed. Biological modeling, including life-table approaches and individual based models, are being developed and applied. Offshore sampling has not been as intensive as originally planned and the egg and offshore larvae distributions are not well defined. Budget constraints and temporal patchiness of eggs have frustrated offshore sampling, although recent

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) successes with the optical egg counter show promise. The panel recommends that SABRE determine if menhaden eggs are present in historical samples of ichthyoplankton from the region, to compensate partially for the limited sampling effort. Other collecting gear (e.g., CalVet nets), which are rapid and efficient, also might improve the offshore sampling effort for menhaden eggs. Results from SABRE will improve understanding of recruitment processes in estuarine-dependent fishes by defining life stages and habitats that are critical. Because menhaden is representative of many estuarine-dependent species, results may have broad applicability to recruitment processes in such species. The new sampling and analytical technologies that are being developed in SABRE should be transferrable to other fishery oceanography research. SABRE addresses issues that are highlighted in the NOAA strategic plan (NOAA, 1993a), specifically the need to advance fisheries predictions. Leadership in SABRE is by a three-member Project Management Committee comprised of one individual each from NOAA/AOML, NOAA/NMFS, and from an academic institution. Thus, all partners are represented equally and complement each other. Project proposals from NOAA and academic scientists were reviewed similarly. Decisions made in workshops and by the Management Committee have led to changes in direction of SABRE. Some projects have been phased out and new projects added through a standardized proposal solicitation and review procedure that has involved SABRE's TAG and outside peer reviewers. The TAG consists of five academic and NOAA scientists who, in addition to reviewing project proposals, meet once each year with SABRE to provide advice to the program. Lower than expected budgets and logistic support have resulted in changes to the original work plan. Increased emphasis is being placed on sampling late-stage larvae entering the inlets and on estuarine juveniles. This shift in emphasis has been justified by citing a life-table model which indicates that a large fraction of the variability in recruitment may be generated in the juvenile stage. The panel sees a continuing need for offshore egg and larval sampling but realizes that substantial NOAA resources must be committed to achieve it. In this respect, SABRE and Bering Sea FOCI differ, because the latter program can draw on substantial NMFS resources already in place to study pollock, independent of CFE. Despite SABRE's shift toward estuarine studies of the juvenile stage, offshore investigations, including physical modeling, moorings, and ichthyoplankton surveys, will continue but are constrained by budget limitations. Continued, or enhanced, effort in inlet sampling to define characteristics of late-stage larvae entering the estuaries is planned.

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) The panel endorses the shift in emphasis toward estuarine juveniles, recognizing the budgeting and logistic realities that SABRE faces. In offshore investigations, it is important for SABRE to deliberate over how they can best define where and when menhaden spawn. This information is necessary to establish initial birthdate distributions and also to provide input data for models that attempt to describe larval transport to the inlets. This will require careful sampling design. It also may require new sampling gear and examination of previously collected ichthyoplankton material from the South Atlantic Bight. With SABRE's increasing effort on juvenile menhaden biology, new emphasis on predator-prey interactions also will be necessary. In the long term, SABRE should consider broadening the scope of its research to include other abundant, estuarine-dependent species (e.g., spot, croaker, and flounders). The panel believes that to make important strides in understanding recruitment processes in menhaden and other estuarine-dependent species it will be necessary eventually to sample and characterize all early life stages. The causes of recruitment success or failure probably will differ from year to year in their dependence upon either offshore processes that affect eggs and larvae versus inshore processes that affect estuarine juveniles. Predation and Structure of the Georges Bank Ecosystem The Georges Bank program is the third and most recently funded of the CFE programs. It was implemented in FY 1993 with a budget of $0.4 million, well below its planned level of support; it was level-funded in FY 1994 (COP, 1993a). The Georges Bank program addresses the three overall objectives of CFE, but concentrates on species interactions, and is the only CFE program that explicitly addresses the compensation objective. The Georges Bank program also differs from the other CFE programs in that it emphasizes the Georges Bank ecosystem and community-level dynamics, rather than having a single-species focus. The Georges Bank program includes the least physics of the CFE programs, in the sense that no studies of ocean physics are included explicitly at this time. It is hypothesized that predation, by both man (i.e., fishing) and natural predators, has shaped the recent structure of the Georges Bank ecosystem. Heavy and selective fishing has caused drastic declines in valuable cod, haddock, and flounder resources, while biomasses of less valuable piscivores (e.g., sharks and rays) have increased (COP, 1992; 1993a). It is not clear whether the present community structure is stable or whether changes in fishing strategies or ocean conditions could cause the system to shift back toward its former condition. Primary species of interest are the gadids (haddock and cod), the flounders, and the elasmobranchs (spiny dogfish and skates). Pelagic species, for example herring

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) and mackerel, also are of concern. Species interactions among these groups, principally predator-prey relationships, will be the focus of the Georges Bank program research. Scientists from the NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center have formed partnerships with five university scientists in the program. Collaborative arrangements with other programs that include fishery oceanography components and have activities in the Georges Bank area (e.g., the NSF/NOAA Climate and Global Change Program, GLOBEC, the Canadian Ocean Production Enhancement Network (OPEN), and Cod and Climate), have been developed (COP, 1992), promising to produce economies of scale for the low-budget Georges Bank program and ultimately to increase its utility to scientists and managers. The Georges Bank program will depend upon the other programs to provide data on ocean physics and larval ecology (e.g., GLOBEC) (COP, 1992). If these programs are underfunded, the Georges Bank program may be diminished in value. The overall goal of the program is to quantify the combined effects of predation and exploitation on fish community dynamics on Georges Bank (COP, 1992). There are three major and overlapping phases of research in the Georges Bank program (COP, 1993a). These are: (1) to undertake retrospective analysis of feeding interactions among fishes on the Bank, (2) to undertake field and laboratory studies to improve consumption estimates, and (3) to develop multispecies models of Georges Bank to evaluate production potential of cod and haddock under different levels of predation stress. Six specific tasks are identified (COP, 1992): Refine estimates of diet composition and intake of key predators. Estimate predation mortality rates of prerecruit cod and haddock. Refine estimates of gastric evacuation rates of key predators. Determine functional feeding responses and selectivity of key predators. Examine importance of compensatory mechanisms in haddock and cod. Evaluate how above factors influence the form of stock-recruitment models. The panel endorses the ambitious goals and objectives of the Georges Bank program. There is considerable evidence that fishing and predator-prey relationships have shaped the structure of fish communities on the Georges Bank. Given the limited budget of the program, retrospective analyses, limited experimental and field work, and model development are appropriate emphases that can lead to important

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) gains in knowledge of this ecosystem. This is particularly likely, if meaningful collaborations with other fishery oceanography programs materialize as anticipated. The program was implemented just one year ago and accomplishments have not yet been reported. The program has been organized, partnerships between NOAA and academia have been established, and research proposals were funded. Links with GLOBEC have been formed. The panel endorses plans of the Georges Bank program to collaborate with other fishery oceanography programs as one way to increase program effectiveness. It is unclear if any formal agreements have been made between Georges Bank and GLOBEC or other programs, although such agreements would be desirable, and joint management teams should be considered. A three-member Management Team of NMFS and university scientists has been assembled and a 6-member TAG formed (COP, 1992). Research proposals were solicited from universities, research laboratories, and from the NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Knowledge from the Georges Bank program can be applied to advise fisheries managers on best methods to achieve sustainable harvests to promote productive fish communities of high economic value. The predation process and the role of compensatory mechanisms, which are major ecosystem-level regulators of structure and productivity, are poorly understood by fishery scientists. Knowledge gained about these processes by the Georges Bank program will have utility both for that system and for other ecosystems where fishing and predation are dominant factors. The Georges Bank program is constrained by lower than expected budgets, with uncertain prospects for increased funding. The emphasis on retrospective and modeling studies, and limited field or experimental research, is appropriate under the circumstances. The Georges Bank program is now in its second year. It is anticipated that products and progress will be evident during the next several months, which may shape future directions of the program. The panel noted that the principal product of the program is proposed to be a multi-species model of the Georges Bank ecosystem, which can be used to guide management decisions (COP, 1992). A proposed adaptive management strategy, in which predator populations are manipulated by selective fishing, will be proposed by the Georges Bank program for future application. As the Georges Bank program unfolds, careful planning and selection of projects are essential to meet its goals under the limited budgets that likely will be available. Effective management and coordination with other fishery oceanography programs also are essential.

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) References Coastal Ocean Policy Roundtable. 1992.Criteria and Procedures for Program and Project Evaluation. A report to the Coastal Ocean Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. October 1992. 16 pp. Coastal Ocean Program. 1990. Coastal Fisheries Ecosystems Program Implementation Plan FY 1991. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce , Washington, D.C. Coastal Ocean Program. 1991a. Coastal Fisheries Ecosystems (CFE). FY 1992 Implementation Plan. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce , Washington, D.C. 18 pp. Coastal Ocean Program. 1991b. Bering Sea FOCI. Fisheries-oceanography coordinated investigations. Project study plan 1991-1996. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce , Washington, D.C. 28 pp. Coastal Ocean Program. 1992. Predation and the Structure of the Georges Bank Ecosystem. Implementation Plan. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce , Washington, D.C., 32 pp. Coastal Ocean Program. 1993a. Coastal Fisheries Ecosystems (CFE). FY 1994 Implementation Plan Contract. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. U.S. Department of Commerce. Washington, D.C. 40 pp. Coastal Ocean Program. 1993b. Bering Sea FOCI. Fisheries-oceanography Coordinated Investigations. Overview and Plans. November 1993. Alaska Fisheries Science Center and Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle, Washington, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce , Washington, D.C. 25 pp. (prepared by A. Macklin). GLOBEC. 1992. Northwest Atlantic Implementation Plan. U.S. Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics Report 6. June 1992 U.S. GLOBEC Science Steering Committee Coordinating Office, University of California, Davis, California, 69 pp.

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A Review of the Accomplishments and Plans of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (1994) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 1989. Recruitment Fisheries Oceanography. NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and National Marine Fisheries Service. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C. 27 pp. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 1991.NOAA's Coastal Ocean Program. Science for Solutions. Prospectus for Fiscal Years 1993-1997. U.S. Dept. Commerce, July 1991. 163 pp. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 1993a.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 1995-2005 Strategic Plan. July 1993. U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 1993b.Shelikof Strait FOCI. Overview and Plans. Fisheries-oceanography Coordinated Investigations. NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center and Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle Washington, Nov. 1993. 39 pp. (Prepared by Allen Mackin) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 1993c.Coastal Ocean Program Management and Review Protocol. 29 October 1993. NOAA Coastal Ocean Program, Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C. National Research Council. 1987.Recruitment Processes and Ecosystem Structure of the Sea. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 44 pp. National Research Council. 1991.A Review of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 24 pp. “Sitka Symposium.” 1988. International symposium on the biology and management of walleye pollock. Anchorage, Alaska, November 1988. South Atlantic Bight Recruitment Experiment. 1994.Report of the Second SABRE Principal Investigators' Annual Meeting, December 1993. (report prepared by L. Crowder, D. E. Hoss and P. B. Ortner). 68 pp.