Northeast - Indicator Products


Ecosystem Status Reports

Ecosystem Status Reports link information across indicators to give an integrated overview of ecosystem status relevant to ecosystem management decisions. 

Find Northeast IEA's most recent Ecosystem Status Reports here.

Current Conditions of the Northeast Shelf Ecosystem -- Fall 2017 Update

Summary of Conditions of the Northeast Shelf Ecosystem

  • Sea surface temperature (SST) in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem during the first half of 2017 continued to moderate compared to the record high temperatures that occurred in 2012; however, temperatures remain above the long-term mean based on both contemporary satellite remote-sensing data and ship-board measurements.
  • The spring bloom was late and poorly developed in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank areas and above average on the eastern Gulf of Maine and Scotian Shelf.
  • Moderate spring temperature conditions have delayed the spring thermal transition dates for 2017 compared to recent years.
  • The distribution of fish and invertebrate species sampled by the NEFSC bottom trawl survey has changed; utilizing data through the spring 2017 survey, kernel density plots and the assessments of species distributions both along- and across-shelf show mixed distribution movements over time.
  • Climate models suggest temperature condition will continue to be above average over the coming half year.

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Spatial Analyses of species

Species on the U.S. NES have been shifting over time, possibly as a result of climate change, changes in preferred habitat, fishing pressure, or some combination of these factors. These shifts are visible in movies of the distribution of key species from the NEFSC bottom trawl survey from 1968 to 2014. The species distribution movies illustrate that for some species the bulk of their biomass has shifted northward, or towards areas with cooler temperatures. A recent study examining the shifts in the centers of biomass for more than 70 species were generally in a northeast direction along the Mid-Atlantic bight and in a southwest direction in the Gulf of Maine, possibly due to cooler bottom water temperatures. These shifts have important management implications. For species that are shifting out of traditional harvest areas, this will result in altered patterns of availability to local fishing communities, and possibly negative economic consequences as a result of lost access to stocks that are managed with species-specific quotas and rising fuel and travel costs. In some cases, fishers will need to adapt to altered marine community structures, and some subtropical-temperate species may replace those species that are lost. These shifts from one management jurisdiction to another will require more collaboration between fisheries managers in different regions. These shifts may also result in the concentration of targeted fish species increasing vulnerability to fishing activity. Atlantic cod, is one example of a species that may be experiencing this sort of concentration. Overall, shifts in species distributions may result in ecological, economic, and social challenges throughout the NES region.

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