Michelle RobinsonMichelle Robinson
Michelle Robinson

This blog is written by Michele Robinson, an advisor to the Marine Conservation Society, responsible for achieving priority fish conservation and ecosystem goals on the West Coast. A former National Ocean Policy Manager, Michelle began her own consulting work after representing Washington State at the Pacific Fisheries Management Council for 15 years. She is passionate about helping fisheries manage climate change and promoting ocean conservation efforts.

Sablefish was my grandma’s favorite fish, she’d never heard of it. It was as miso-marinated, white, and flaky as she only knew “pomfret”.Also known as “black cod”, it is the only species with this genus tumor Not actually cod at all. Sablefish is on menus all over the world and is especially popular in Japan and Hawaii where my grandmother grew up.

Sablefish live in waters in the Pacific Ocean at depths of 300 to 2,700 meters (980 to 8,860 feet). They mature at five to seven years of age and can live into their nineties, with females larger than males and can grow to more than three feet. Juveniles are known to migrate over 2,000 miles, the equivalent of swimming from California to Hawaii.

Stingray populations on the Pacific coast of the United States and Canada are healthy. Fisheries have been sustainably managed for decades.

But even well-managed fisheries can be affected by climate change. “Our fishermen have experienced climate change first-hand and are continually adjusting their fishing operations as these environmental changes occur,” said Bob Alverson, executive director of the Fishing Boat Owners Association. The problem is that changes happen more frequently and are unpredictable due to climate change. Alverson noted that many fishermen, especially those in the North Pacific, are finding smaller catches. This is a good sign that the overall population is healthy, but is frustrating for fishermen who would rather catch the now marketable stingray and let the young fish grow and contribute to the population before harvest. “Everyone is doing their best,” he admits, “but it’s like the management system can’t keep up with the pace of change that’s happening on the water.”

In fact, management’s response is often delayed. For more than 15 years, scientists have regularly assessed the status of stingray populations, and many of the puzzle pieces are only now beginning to be pieced together. In particular, scientists have made progress on two key questions about stingrays: “How do stingray populations perform across their entire range—across fishery management boundaries?” and “How environmental conditions affect recruitment, This is a measure of how many new juveniles survive into the population each year?” Answering these questions can help better manage stingrays and allow managers to better respond to changes in environmental conditions, including those caused by climate change.

To help answer the first question, Melissa Haltuch, a scientist at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, is one of three regional leaders of a project working to collaboratively analyze stingray data and methods to assess the range-wide Population status, across the existing managed borders of Alaska, the United Kingdom, Columbia, and the U.S. Pacific Coast. The results of this project and ongoing stingray research will be shared with fisheries managers and stakeholders through the Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) process, including an extensive reanalysis of biological data on stingray growth and transboundary movement. The project will provide better advice to regional fisheries managers by better reflecting what is known about transboundary stocks. “I am delighted to be working with an excellent team of scientists and researchers to improve the scientific advice we can provide to regional fisheries managers,” said Dr Haltuch.

Scientists tackled the second question back in 2009, when they first explored how environmental factors influence stingray recruitment and found that it might be linked to survival at sea level. A decade later, when Dr. Haltuch and others conducted another scientific study, the link was more clearly demonstrated to be a useful indicator of stingray recruitment. Their findings suggest that cooler waters in deeper waters generally provide better habitat and feeding conditions for young stingrays. These deeper waters rise to the surface to replace surface water that has been blown away by the wind through a process called “upwelling,” which can facilitate stingray recruitment.

The finding proved helpful in several ways. Because stingrays harvested in commercial fisheries are typically 20 to 40 years old, the amount of stingrays we can catch today depends in part on environmental conditions (as measured by sea level) 15 to 35 years ago. In addition, the current state of the California Current ecosystem in which stingrays (and thousands of other species of fish) live will affect how many fish we can catch in 20 years—unless the ocean conditions in the region change dramatically. next 20 years. How upwelling and the associated beneficial habitat and feeding conditions it creates will be affected by global sea level rise remains unknown, but these questions continue to be studied. Many juveniles, including salmon and rockfish, generally prefer the same habitat and feeding conditions as juveniles. Therefore, using these ecological linkages to inform decision-making can help managers of these fisheries prepare for the impacts of climate change.

I might be able to teach my grandma a few things about her favorite fish, but in the process of learning about them, they taught me how to better manage and advocate for our marine resources. Being more aware and better prepared for what may happen in the future is our only hope for keeping our fisheries sustainable.

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