Synthesizing integrated ecosystem research to create informed stock-specific indicators for next generation stock assessments
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Synthesizing integrated ecosystem research to create informed stock-specific indicators for next generation stock assessments

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  • Journal Title:
    Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
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    Over the past two decades, numerous ecosystem surveys and process studies have emerged to monitor and assess the large marine ecosystems of Alaska. Several regional collaborative integrated ecosystem research projects (IERPs) were conducted to gain understanding of fish population fluctuations in relation to the surrounding environment. The Gulf of Alaska (GOA) IERP is one example of such an effort. Products of this program include a suite of in situ observations from fully integrated ecosystem surveys, laboratory experiments of physical thresholds for fish condition, and high-resolution oceanographic, planktonic, and habitat distribution models. When coupled, the synthesis products of this program can be utilized to understand system connectivity and highlight the primary ecosystem drivers of the GOA. Much of this information was included in annual GOA ecosystem status reports through individual indicator contributions. However, assimilation of these data into single-species stock assessments has remained limited. We provide a clear and direct avenue for including the products of these IERPs through the new ecosystem and socioeconomic profile (ESP) framework that identifies mechanistic relationships and tests ecosystem linkages within the stock assessment process. We present a case study using a data synthesis of the five commercially and ecologically valuable focal species of the GOAIERP (sablefish, pollock, Pacific cod, arrowtooth flounder, and Pacific ocean perch). Information was organized along the categories of distribution, phenology, and condition by life history stage to develop life history narratives for each species. These narratives identified critical ecosystem processes that could impact survival of each species. We then used habitat distribution models, seasonal phenology, and energy allocation strategies to sequentially reduce two gridded temperature datasets to reflect the life experience of the stock. This method essentially aligns ecosystem information at a spatial and temporal scale relevant to a stock and creates informed indicators that could then be related to a stock assessment parameter of interest, such as recruitment. Informed temperature indicators differed in magnitude and variability when compared to non-informed indicators and demonstrating species and stage-specific thermal preferences. The difference between the informed indicators and the non-informed indicators can also highlight thresholds and trends in habitat preference that could be further investigated with targeted process studies or laboratory experiments. The coordinated nature of the IERP allowed for the creation of these informed indicators that would not be possible with the results of any one process study. Both the stock-specific narratives and the informed indicators can be included into the ESPs for further monitoring and development. This integration ensures that the identified ecosystem linkages are evaluated concurrently with the stock assessment and ultimately transferred to fishery managers in an efficient and effective format for informing management decisions.
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    Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, 198, 105070
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