Accounting for shifting distributions in U.S. marine fisheries management: challenges and recommendations

NOAA Melissa Karp1, Dr.  Jay  Peterson2, Dr. Patrick Lynch2, Dr.  Roger Griffis2, Dr.  Wendy  Morrison3

1ECS Federal, LLC on behalf of NOAA Fisheries, Office of Science & Technology , Silver Spring, United States, 2NOAA Fisheries, Office of Science & Technology, Silver Spring, United States, 3NOAA Fisheries, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, Silver Spring, United States

There is growing evidence that the distribution of many marine fish and fisheries are shifting in response to changing environmental conditions. Shifting species distributions may have significant impacts on the effectiveness of a variety of fishery management decisions including allocation of catch, spatiotemporal closures, stock status, and catch limits. Addressing these impacts in the fishery management process can be particularly challenging when species shift their distributions across management boundaries.  In response to these challenges the NOAA Fisheries identified specific issues, needs, and recommendations to advance the production, delivery, and use of climate and environmental information in the management of U.S. fisheries. The recommendations include evaluating management strategies under projected future ocean scenarios; evaluating spatial management measures; planning for emerging fisheries; considering population age structure and genetic diversity; and increasing cross-jurisdictional coordination. Within these recommendations, we identify specific actions and highlight the science needed to enable managers to make necessary proactive and adaptive management decisions. Case studies from U.S. experiences with shifting distributions of marine species will be discussed in the context of these recommendations.


Melissa Karp is a contractor with NOAA Fisheries, Office of Science and Technology. Her work advances incorporation of ecosystem and climate information stock assessment methodology in the U.S. She also coordinates a national effort to develop updated technical guidance to implement the National Standard 1 Guidelines of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery and Conservation Management Act (MSA); the MSA is the primary legislative mandate for management of fisheries in the U.S. Ms. Karp previously was a Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow in her current office. She achieved her M.S. in marine science from the College of William and Mary’s School of Marine Science, at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in 2016 and her B.S. in Biology and Environmental Science from Tufts University in 2013. Her Master’s thesis investigated the effect of structural complexity and salinity on the faunal communities living on restored oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay. In her spare time Ms. Karp enjoys rock climbing, running, playing field and floor hockey, hiking, and being in nature.

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