IV. Application to Management - Pathway to a New Product

The 1970s and the 1980s were marked by dramatic changes in abundance for many groups of upper-trophic level species. Populations of piscivorous seabirds, such as murres and kittiwakes, underwent significant declines (Hatch, 1993). Similarly, estimates of steller's sea lion and northern fur seal pup production show a declining trend, particularly in the 1970s (NMFS 1993). Biomass of adult walleye pollock decreased during the 1970s, increased in the 1980s, and has approached a median value in the 1990s (Wespestad and Terry, 1984; Wespestad, 1994). The common link between these upper-trophic level predators is their reliance on juvenile walleye pollock as a food source (Livingston 1993). One needs to look no further than the Georges Bank fishery closure (Sinclair and Page, 1995; Kunzig, 1995) to see the impact of the physical/biological variability of the ecosystem.

EXPECTED RESULTS/MANAGEMENT ACTIVITY: Information on eastern Bering Sea pollock and its interactions with the remaining ecosystem will include population estimates and time series of regional biophysical parameters and research results. The program goal for the end of six years (five years plus a start-up year) is to develop and test annual indices of survival for pre-recruit pollock in the eastern Bering Sea. The FOCI program has successfully provided such indices for Shelikof Strait for the previous three years. As intermediate results become available, they will be forwarded to appropriate management and policy groups. Specification of these intermediate objectives will be a result of the 1996 workshop.

Information from SEBSCC will increase the ability of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) and International Convention on Conservation and Management of Pollock Resources in the Central Bering Sea to improve the reliability of traditional fisheries assessment methods, evaluate alternate management approaches, anticipate changes in the environment, and balance fisheries and other environmental/economic concerns. The research results involving short-term forecast of walleye pollock recruitment will be incorporated into stock assessments used by AFSC to recommend allowable biological catch (ABC) estimates to the Council (Figure 10). Other research results involving factors influencing horizontal and vertical distribution of juvenile walleye pollock to upper trophic level predators would assist Council decisions regarding restriction of fishing around marine mammal rookery areas. Results on the relative contributions of various pollock sub-stocks to successful recruitment into the eastern Bering Sea fishery could also be useful in formulating management options for the timing and location of pollock fishing. The NPFMC is attempting to move in the direction of ecosystem management and information provided by SEBSCC will lead in this effort by improving knowledge of the role of pollock in the SE Bering Sea ecosystem.

Sustainable Fisheries is the first goal listed in NOAA's Strategic Plan. Southeast Bering Sea Carrying Capacity meets the requirement of the Advance Fisheries Prediction element of the Strategic Plan: The Bering Sea is a major ecosystem and economic resource where there is a large year-to-year pollock recruitment and upper-trophic level variability which is not well understood. SEBSCC's proposed management structure is a proven NOAA-academic-international partnership, effective in providing scientific leadership and subsequent transition to management.

Figure 10. Pathways for information from SEBSCC to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The path is through recruitment scenarios provided by NOAA. The second pathway is through ecological information to the plan team and science and statistical committee.

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