Two newly issued reports provide a snapshot of the Northeast U.S. Shelf Ecosystem. They look at everything from phytoplankton production at the bottom of the food web to the fishery harvests at the top. One report focuses on Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine the other on the waters of the Mid-Atlantic Bight. These are the three major regions within the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem.
“This approach has helped give the council structure with specific steps to define what our management goals and objectives are, figure out how we can address them, and understand what that means for areas such as economics,” said Brandon Muffley, a fishery management specialist at the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
These annual reports are part of a larger, ongoing NOAA-wide initiative. It provides a consistent national approach to managing ecosystems that is flexible enough to accommodate regional needs. This Integrated Ecosystem Assessment approach is intended to help resource managers integrate physical, biological, economic, and social components of ecosystems into their decision-making. This will help them to balance trade-offs and determine which approaches are more likely to achieve their desired goals. The 2020 State of the Ecosystem Reports inform the New England and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils.
The State of the Ecosystem reports were produced by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, with additional collaborators from academic research institutions, non-profit organizations, and state agencies.
For each region, the researchers organized information around management objectives — such as seafood production, stability, recreation, and ecosystem structure. They used indicators related to those objectives — including commercial and recreational landings, revenue, and diversity of fisheries and species. They will use those indicators to report on economic and social factors, protected species, fish and invertebrates, habitat quality, and ecosystem productivity.
“The State of the Ecosystem Reports are a rich tapestry of data, models and trends. They provide a unique way to assess the health of our marine environment and can inform fishery managers of the type of support/response they can expect from the ecosystem." — John Pappalardo, chief executive officer for the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen's Alliance, and chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council's Ecosystem-Based Fishery Management Committee.