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Nation’s Fishery Scientists Tackle Climate, Ecosystem and Other Uncertainty Issues

HONOLULU (25 February 2015) Scientists from throughout the United States gathered Feb. 23 to 25, 2015, in Honolulu to explore ways of incorporating climate, ecosystems and other of areas uncertainty into the sustainable  management of the nation’s fisheries. The scientists included 40 representatives from the Scientific and Statistical Committees (SSC) of the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils (RFMCs), established by Congress in 1976 to manage fisheries operating in the US exclusive economic zone, as well as a dozen fishery experts providing keynote presentations. This week’s public meeting was the fifth gathering of the National SSC. The meeting was hosted by the Western Pacific RFMC, which is based in Honolulu and whose jurisdiction includes Hawai`i, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and eight remote islands in the Pacific. Findings from the meeting will be forwarded to the Councils Coordination Committee, a group of the leadership from the eight RFMCs, which is scheduled to meet June 22 to 25, 2015, in Key West, Fla.

The National SSC this week deliberated on several key points regarding the incorporation of ecological, environmental and climate variability in stock assessments and ecosystem-based fishery management. These points include keystone species, regime shifts or other major environmental changes, and ecosystem dynamics and effects of natural and anthropogenic factors on production. The scientists noted that, in addition to incorporating ecosystem considerations into stock assessments, ecosystem considerations can be taken into account in management decisions.

“The past three days have shown that fisheries are dynamic and probably becoming more so with climate change,” noted Charles Daxboeck, chair of the National SSC meeting. “Councils and SSCs tend to be reactive to single species issues such as stock declines, bycatch problems or protected species interaction issues. Ecosystem-based management can look at these as a series of interconnected events. In addition to climate vulnerability, it’s important to look retrospectively at factors that have altered ecosystems and their impacts on fisheries.”

The National SSC also discussed regional habitat considerations, differences in how stock assessments are determined for species and species-complexes for which there is limited data, how the requirement for the best-scientific available information should be determined, and evaluation of the control rules for acceptable biological catch, from which annual catch limits are determined.

The final findings of the National SSC will be posted on the RFMC website at http://fisherycouncils.org/.