NOAA Fisheries on Dec. 26 announced that it has introduced a new communications tool called the Ecosystem and Socioeconomic Profile (ESP), in order to move toward the application of ecosystem-based fisheries management.
The tool’s purpose is to facilitate integration of ecosystem and socioeconomic information into fisheries management decisions by distilling information from a variety of sources into a succinct, focused report to help resource managers in decision-making.
The ESP was first conceived in 2014, building on NOAA Fisheries’ history of identifying ecosystem and socioeconomic pressures since the 1990s.
“The ESP gives managers a streamlined version of what affects each fish stock,” said Alaska Fisheries Science Center biologist Kalei Shotwell, who initiated development of the ESP. “It provides a means to get a broad range of information—from articles, workshops, citizen science, traditional indigenous knowledge—into one place.”
“It moves us toward ecosystem-based fisheries management. That’s the ultimate goal,” she said.
“We had a lot of information at the large marine ecosystem level. But we don’t manage fish at that level. There was a communication gap between conducting research and getting the information into management advice for individual fish stocks,” Shotwell explained. “We developed the ESP to fill that gap.”
The first ESP case study using Alaska sablefish was completed in 2017. Over the next several years, it was developed and refined through the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council review process and using recommendations from the 2018 NOAA Fisheries’ Next Generation Stock Assessment Improvement Plan.
The ESP was further honed through a series of workshops with representatives from Alaska and other NOAA Fisheries Science Centers and offices, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, stakeholder advisory panels, the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Shotwell said everyone’s buy-in is needed to be successful, and that there’s already grassroots support and a concerted effort by experts across disciplines working together.
ESPs have been completed for several Alaska crab and groundfish stocks since 2019. These include some of the nation’s largest and most valuable fisheries, including Alaska pollock, Pacific cod, red king crab and snow crab.
“It has been a long road developing and improving ESPs, but now we are in a place for production,” Shotwell remarked. “The ESP now completes the loop between stock assessment, ecosystem and socioeconomic assessment and fisheries management.”