Meeting on integrating dynamic habitat into butterfish stock assessment

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Butterfish MeetingAs an outgrowth of the ongoing MARACOOS-based cooperative research work being conducted with the Mid-Atlantic commercial squid fishermen (led by John Manderson (NMFS), Josh Kohut (Rutgers COOL), and Greg DiDomenico (Garden State Seafood Assn), NOAA Office of Science and Technology has funded a 2 year project involving an inter-disciplinary working group focused on developing an environmentally explicit assessment method for butterfish in the Mid-Atlantic. Funding for the 2nd year is contingent on progress during the first year. This grant represents a significant vote of confidence in the team by NOAA to advance “Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management” in the Northeast US, using the currently “data poor” Butterfish assessment as a test case. 

The primary near term focus of the work is to assess the role of changes in the seasonal habitat dynamics of butterfish in the interpretation of assessment surveys and to develop a method to quantitatively integrate that knowledge into assessment models for the stock. 

This week, a diverse group of experts from the fishing industry, academia and government met at Rutgers University to develop this approach and begin to move beyond it into a more holistic ecosystem based assessment centered around the species.  The project is also aimed at piloting a more inclusive and transparent process for the development of scientific advice in support of management. This pilot will bring a range of experts together to work through the process of developing scientific advice.

The project timeline is determined by the schedule of the Butterfish assessment process, which will be conducted over the next 18 months and completed by a team of independent experts (none of whom are permitted to have received NOAA funding in the past) in December 2013.