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AFSC Seminar Series No. 18

Scheduled Seminars

"Ecosystem Research and Advice for Fisheries Management: Past, Present, and Future"

Presenter: Pat Livingston, AFSC

When: Tuesday, March 13, 2007, 11:00am
Where: Traynor Seminar Rm (2076), Bldg. 4,  AFSC, Sand Point Campus, Seattle, Washington

  • This seminar will be transmitted live to the Auke Bay Laboratory (main conference room), and to the Newport Laboratory (BFB - Room 201).
  • When arriving from off the WRC campus, leave extra time to check in with security at the gate and at the entrance to building 4.


Management of Federal groundfish fisheries in Alaska has been evolving to include many aspects of an ecosystem approach to management. Management actions have ranged from those providing protection to endangered species in the region to preventing new fisheries from starting on key food web components such as forage fish. A scientific framework for providing ecosystem-based advice that puts the ecosystem first has been evolving over the last few years. Assessing the historical, present, and future state of marine ecosystems and the effects that humans and climate have on ecosystem state are important parts of the scientific advice required to implement this approach. This framework provides a way of assessing ecosystem factors influencing target species, the impact the target fishery may have on associated species, and ecosystem-level impacts of fishing. The approach is now being expanded to utilize a variety of models to predict possible future trends in various ecosystem indicators. Future implementation challenges include the refinement of these predictive models and the inclusion of climate into the models. Identification of sensitive and meaningful ecosystem indicators that are linked to specific management objectives is also required before a more formalized decision-making process that includes ecosystem considerations can occur.

An ecosystem approach to fisheries management requires consideration of more than just the target fish species in assessment activities and advice. This means that scientific analysis included in stock assessments should be broadened to include considerations of ecosystem factors that affect the target species and also how the target species and its fishery might affect other ecosystem components. Ecosystem factors that might affect target species population dynamics include prey availability or abundance, predators, and changes in habitat quality that include environmental factors. Stock assessment scientists are actively working to quantify these factors and include them directly into their models and advice, when appropriate. Fishery effects on the ecosystem include direct impacts through fishery bycatch of non-target species and the indirect effects of fisheries such as removals of prey that are important to other predators in the system and changes in water quality or scavenger populations due to fishery discarding and offal production. In order to provide this analysis, fishery research and monitoring programs must be broadened accordingly to include trophic relationships, habitat delineation, and monitoring of non-target species.

Examples of the types of ecosystem-based fisheries management actions taken by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council are shown along with examples of current management questions that require scientific analysis. The use of integrated ecosystem assessments is discussed as a goal to drive future progress in advancing ecosystem approaches to management.

Presenter's Bio:

Pat Livingston has been a fish research biologist at the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Fisheries Science Center since 1977. She received a B.S. in Fisheries from Michigan State University, M.S. in quantitative fisheries management from the University of Washington, and M.P.A. in natural resource administration and policy from the University of Washington. She is presently the director of the Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management Division and formerly the leader of the Resource Ecology and Ecosystem Modeling Program.

Her main research focus has been to implement various ecosystem and upper-trophic level models of the North Pacific and to integrate information on ecosystem responses to change into fisheries management advice. Previously, she has worked on coordinating an ecosystem status report for the eastern Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska regions to accompany the groundfish stock assessment advice that goes to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. This work has involved developing ecosystem status indicators and ecosystem management indicators. Pat has also served in various capacities with PICES, including co-chair of the PICES-GLOBEC Climate Change and Carrying Capacity Programe (CCCC) scientific program, chairman of the PICES Science Board, and member of various working and study groups on ecosystem approaches to management. She also chairs the Scientific and Statistical Committee of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.


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