Understanding Atlantic sea scallops and ocean acidification
How will sea scallops and the fishing communities that rely on them fare as the ocean changes?
- Understand the social and ecological vulnerability of the Atlantic sea scallop fishery to projected ocean chemistry changes.
- Collaboratively produce recommendations to help sea scallop fishermen and fishing communities adapt to changing ocean conditions.
This multidisciplinary, multi-institution project integrates social and natural science research. It will inform management policies for the Northeast sea scallop fishery, which is facing ocean acidification.
The Atlantic sea scallop fishery is the second-most valuable single-species fishery in the United States. It is the most valuable wild scallop fishery in the world. However, sea scallops may be vulnerable to forecasted changes in ocean chemistry. The future of both the sea scallop fishery and the communities that rely on it will depend on their ability to adapt to climate change and ocean acidification (OA). To find ways to adapt to change and manage for it, we need to understand not only how dependent communities are on sea scallops, but also the well-being and sustainability of the fishery. The research team will collaborate with sea scallop fishermen, related industry stakeholders, and managers to develop recommendations. The recommendations will help us navigate changes in the fishery resulting from projected ocean acidification and climate change in the Northeast United States.
- Organize and facilitate three annual workshops between scientific partners and the fishing community. The workshops will feature discussions of project goals, approaches, and preliminary and final results from models, and address fishing industry concerns, which will be incorporated into management recommendations.
- Conduct social-ecological system vulnerability assessment to measure well-being, sustainability, vulnerability, and resilience of the sea scallop industry to climate warming and OA.
- Project sea scallop abundance and productivity under future conditions by scaling up results from biological sensitivity experiments with sea scallops and incorporating these results into regional ocean models.
- Generate spatially-explicit regional projection of changes relative to sea scallop fishing zones to inform management and help with community resilience.
Social Science Research
Social science researchers will develop indicators for sea scallop dependent fishing communities. They will use the NOAA Fisheries Community Social Vulnerability Indicators and community-level analysis of species vulnerability to climate change and catch composition diversity. They will also analyze the regulatory history of the Atlantic sea scallop fishery since the first management plan was implemented in 1982 to the present day, and identify factors that have contributed to current management outcomes. Analyzing the recent history of the fishery will help identify factors associated with differential outcomes in sea scallop-dependent communities.
Sea Scallop Biology and Computer Modeling
The natural science portion of this project will assess regional vulnerability of sea scallops to past and future projected ocean changes. Lab-based sensitivity experiments with individual scallops will be scaled up to assess population-level effects of stressors. Researchers will investigate where and when different sea scallop life stages are most vulnerable. Vulnerability is defined as the time of exposure to ocean acidification (OA) multiplied by the sensitivity of the life stage.
To pinpoint when and where sea scallops are most vulnerable, scientists will use a physical ocean circulation model with biogeochemical fields. They will identify local effects of OA and climate change on sea scallops within existing fishing zones that are likely to affect the fishery with potential changes in recruitment, growth rate, and/or time to harvest. They will determine whether sea scallop populations are likely to migrate spatially in response to changing ocean conditions. Results will be incorporated into a forecast that will estimate change in sea scallop catch.
The Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation, a project partner, has created several research fleets in partnership with commercial fishermen to collect oceanographic and biological data. Oceanographic data collected from the CFRF/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute Shelf Oceanographic Research Fleet and CFRF Lobster and Jonah Crab Research Fleets will be used to evaluate the model simulations.
Researchers will use a dynamic energy budget model to consider environmental, behavioral, and physiological factors when projecting sea scallop response to OA. These model projections will help determine whether the time needed to grow to harvestable size will change in fishing zones under different OA and climate scenarios. The results will help us understand which physiological processes are most impacted by OA, and connect regional OA dynamics to sea scallop population-level changes.
Bringing social and natural science together, researchers will assess the fishery’s current reliance on environmental information for decision-making and the role of regional ocean simulations.
The project team will collaborate with sea scallop fishermen, industry stakeholders, and managers through a series of three workshops. They will make management recommendations based on their findings and feedback from the workshops. Collective goal setting with industry stakeholders will help plan for the resilient future of the sea scallop fishery.
Using Experimental Results
- Results will be used to generate a projection of changes to fishing zones used as spatial rotational management areas considering both OA and warming. The projection will rely on modeling changes to sea scallop growth, reproduction, and recruitment.
- Results will inform recommendations for management based on social and ecological data collected and collaboration with the fishing industry and communities.
- Lisa Colburn / NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center / anthropologist
- Shannon Meseck / NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center / research chemist
- Samantha Siedlecki / University of Connecticut / biogeochemical oceanographer
- Dvora Hart / NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center/lead sea scallop stock assessment scientist
- David Bethoney / Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation / executive director
- Catherine Matassa / University of Connecticut / professor of marine biology
- Enrique Curchitser / Rutgers University / professor of earth system modeling
Catherine Alves - Postdoctoral Scholar