N.E. assessments, workshop summary

Scientists and fishermen from throughout New England contributed to a workshop aimed at identifying ways to account for environmental change in fishery science and management of New England groundfish. The workshop was hosted by The Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute as the first in a series that forms an end-to-end review of groundfish stock assessments and management. The workshop identified changes in the ocean environment that have occurred in the New England region, with consideration of future changes and effects on fish stocks. Considering case studies from New England and other regions, methods to account for environmental effects were reviewed as well as the information needed to apply such methods to New England groundfish assessments.

Profound changes in the regional marine environment were documented including:

– atmospheric patterns (e.g., recent reversal of the North Atlantic Oscillation),

– oceanography (e.g., extremely warm temperatures in 2012, recent indices of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation are near record high, increased winter heat budget in the Gulf of Maine, acidification, fresher water on Georges Bank and saltier water in the deep basins of the Gulf of Maine, increasing stratification of the water column in the Gulf of Maine and on the Scotian Shelf),

– and ecology (e.g., increased productivity of phytoplankton, declining zooplankton biomass, shifts in zooplankton species composition and smaller size distribution, habitat degradation and increases in many important predator populations).

Many of the recently observed changes in the marine ecosystem are expected to continue.

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