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Researchers to use Climate Data to Better Predict Marine Distribution in Northeast
NOAA-supported project projected to improve commercial fish management

Stony Brook, NY, October 23, 2017 – Scientists from Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciencesd (SoMAS) will be developing seasonal predictions of fish and marine mammal distributions in the Northeast United States with the goal to enhance protected species management. The research is supported by a $509,573 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Fisheries Office of Science and Technology, in partnership with NOAA Research’s Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) Program.
 
The Northeast U.S. large marine ecosystem is highly productive and supports important commercial and recreational fisheries. It has also experienced some of the highest warming rates in recent decades. Communities in the Northeast have observed many climate-driven changes including shifts in fish distribution for most fish species, as well as changes in the timing of breeding or spawning, seasonal movements, and migrations.
herring
Atlantic herring, one of the fish species being investigated by SoMAS researchers, has been underharvested two years in a row in the northeast region, potentially due to warming-driven distribution changes.

 
Given these changes, the SBU team will use climate information to predict fish and marine mammal distributions on seasonal timescales to help fishermen and decision makers adjust their management approaches based on environmental conditions.
 
The team also plans to experiment with using these predictions to help reduce the incidental capture of non-target species, known as bycatch. Bycatch can increase costs and decrease yield for commercial fisherman, but more precise seasonal predictions of where marine mammals and fish will be distributed could decrease the likelihood of this concern.
 
“While traditional management approaches have focused on fixed areas, it is becoming increasingly recognized that bycatch could be reduced by incorporating dynamic environmental variables such as temperature into models to estimate high risk areas for fisheries bycatch,” said Lesley Thorne, PhD, Assistant Professor in SoMAS and lead investigator of the project, titled “Probabilistic Seasonal Prediction of the Distribution of Fish and Marine Mammals in the Northeast U.S.”
 
By combining species distribution models with climate models, the team will help predict where marine mammals and non-target species are most likely to occur over the next season.
 
“This information could have a significant impact in reducing fisheries bycatch,” said Thorne.
 
As part of this project, the research team will participate in the NOAA MAPP Program’s new Marine Prediction Task Force. The Task Force will allow the researchers to collaborate with other MAPP-funded scientists working on related projects, and combine resources and expertise to rapidly advance project objectives. 
 
Co-investigators for the project are Hyemi Kim, PhD, and Janet Nye, PhD, both Assistant Professors in SoMAS.
 
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Stony Brook University is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become a flagship as one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with more than 26,000 students and 2,600 faculty members, and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 50 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University joins a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University is a driving force in the region’s economy, generating nearly 60,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of more than $4.6 billion. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.