Advancing Ecological Reference Points and Advancing Ecosystem-based Management of Atlantic Menhaden
Principal Investigator: Andre Buchheister, Humbolt State University
Co-Investigators: Thomas J. Miller, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory; Ed Houde, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory; Amy Schueller, NOAA Fisheries Beaufort
Funding Source: Lenfest Ocean Program
Atlantic menhaden are an important prey species for several marine predators, as well as the basis of the largest fishery on the U.S. East Coast. Managers at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission are pursuing the development of ecological reference points (ERPs) to help them sustain both the fishery and the species that rely on menhaden as food. This project will update and enhance an ecosystem model of the Northwest Atlantic Continental Shelf that can be used to forecast the effects of different ERPs on menhaden and its full suite of predators, including fish, seabirds, and marine mammals.
This work focuses on the following research questions: 1) What are the ecosystem tradeoffs and predator impacts that result from managing Atlantic Menhaden using single species reference points or alternative ERPs? and 2) How effective are single species references points and ERPs at balancing management objectives in the presence of uncertainties? The central conflict in managing Atlantic Menhaden deals with identifying a suitable management approach that both supports a targeted fishery while also providing sufficient Menhaden biomass to sustain predators and ecosystem structure. We will address this issue directly by using an updated ecosystem model to quantify the effects that Menhaden fishing rates have on the biomass and fishery yields for Menhaden, other harvested species, and ecosystem structure. We will also use apply Management Strategy Evaluation to examine harvest rules while evaluating performance metrics tied to ecosystem objectives.
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