Diverse integrated ecosystem approach overcomes pandemic-related fisheries monitoring challenges

Publication date
November 11, 2021
Jarrod A. Santora, Tanya L. Rogers, Megan A. Cimino, Keith M. Sakuma, Keith D. Hanson, E. J. Dick, Jaime Jahncke, Pete Warzybok & John C. Field.
Nature Communications volume 12, Article number: 6492.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused unprecedented cancellations of fisheries and ecosystem-assessment surveys, resulting in a recession of observations needed for management and conservation globally. This unavoidable reduction of survey data poses challenges for informing biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, developing future stock assessments of harvested species, and providing strategic advice for ecosystem-based management. We present a diversified framework involving integration of monitoring data with empirical models and simulations to inform ecosystem status within the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem. We augment trawl observations collected from a limited fisheries survey with survey effort reduction simulations, use of seabird diets as indicators of fish abundance, and krill species distribution modeling trained on past observations. This diversified approach allows for evaluation of ecosystem status during data-poor situations, especially during the COVID-19 era. The challenges to ecosystem monitoring imposed by the pandemic may be overcome by preparing for unexpected effort reduction, linking disparate ecosystem indicators, and applying new species modeling techniques.
California Current