Ecosystem and Climate Information for Species, Fisheries, and FMPs

As a follow-on to the Climate and Communities Initiative, in September 2022 the Council endorsed the near-term schedule presented by the Ad Hoc Ecosystem Workgroup (EWG). This would begin with the Ecosystem and Climate Information for Species, Fisheries, and FMPs Initiative, which frequently called Initiative 4 (since it is the fourth initiative undertaken since FEP adoption.

This purposes of this initiative are to: (i) review the incorporation of climate and ecosystem information into the Council’s harvest-setting and fisheries management processes, (ii) determine the need and appropriate timing for additional, FMP-specific ecosystem and climate information, and (iii) where there is a need for additional ecosystem and climate information, develop clear pathways for it to be used in the setting of scientific uncertainty, harvest policy, and specific management actions.  Under this initiative, the Council would facilitate and prioritize a process for Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) scientists, stock assessors, management teams, and advisory bodies to collaborate on assessing the need for and developing climate and ecosystem information in support of annual or biennial fisheries harvest-setting processes.  This initiative would therefore also address Fishery Ecosystem Plan Objectives 1a, 1b, 2a, 6a, and 6b.

Although not explicitly aimed at Initiative 4, in September 2022 the Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Science and Statistical Committee reviewed and discussed “stoplight tables” used to inform salmon management, which could be a methodology further developed and applied through Initiative 4. Through the above link you can access a recording of that webinar and its very informative discussion.

In March 2023 the Ad Hoc Ecosystem Workgroup submitted a detailed work plan for this initiative. As part of the work plan the EWG is developing a ecosystem and climate informed risk assessment methodology, modeled after one in use by the NPFMC, and applying it to two groundfish species, petrale sole and sablefish. The EWG is also developing a method for the Council to select which species it would develop new pathways to integrating ecosystem and climate information into the relevant Council management process.

To advance work on the initiative, the EWG held a two-day webinar in May 2023 that brought together ecosystem scientists and stock assessment scientists to discuss the risk assessment methodology, species selection process, and identify potential on ramps for ecosystem and climate information within Council management processes. (You may access a recording of the webinar through the above link.) The EWG updated the Council on this ongoing work at the June meeting. At the September Council meeting the EWG submitted a report further detailing the aforementioned topics and in a supplemental report presented example risk assessment tables for petrale sole and sablefish. The Council partially endorsed the activities proposed by the EWG including review of the risk assessment methodology and example risk tables by its SSC. The SSC’s Ecosystem-Based Management and Groundfish Subcommittees reviewed the methodology and example application and reported to the full SSC. The SSC endorsed the contents of the Subcommittees’ report and the EWG’s preliminary work on a risk table approach, and recommended operational testing to explore the various implementation pathways presented. The SSC also recommended development of additional risk tables to examine their potential utility for data-poor stocks. The EWG will provide an update to the Council on further initiative work at the March 2024 meeting.

To further Initiative 4 objectives, The Nature Conservancy offered to cosponsor with the Council two workshops. Planning is ongoing and the workshops are slated for January-February 2024.