Title: Physiological ecology and habitat suitability: combining experiments and surveys to inform stock assessments

Funding agency:  NOAA CINAR

Project Lead: Grace Saba

Partners:  NOAA NMFS-Northeast Fisheries Science Center, WHOI

Period of Performance: 8/1/2014 – 6/30/2021

Total budget:  $88,010

Project Summary:

There is increasing importance to include habitat information into stock assessment models, as stock dynamics and observations of stock abundance are impacted by habitat. Part of the difficulty is because the scale of most habitat studies is not matched to the scale of most assessments. While more than fifteen models are used for stock assessments at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), only a few have the ability to directly include habitat information. One recent success was the development of a habitat suitability model, coupled with a circulation model hindcast, for the assessment of pelagic forage fish, Atlantic Butterfish (Peprilus triacanthus) (Manderson et al. 2011; NEFSC 2014). The model is parameterized using catch densities and temperatures from multiple fishery-independent surveys. However, extracting niche dimensions from field survey collections can problematic. Another approach is to develop niche dimensions experimentally, by determining the metabolic functional response of target species to a range of temperatures. These laboratory-based studies can then be used to calibrate species niche models.

This project tests this premise. We propose to parameterize mechanistic thermal niche models by measuring temperature and size-dependent metabolic rates for butterfish, compare habitat suitability models based on field and experimental data, then evaluate the effect of parameterization on catchability estimates for butterfish along the U.S. east coast in the context of the stock assessment model. This will allow us to identify priority habitat areas for butterfish.