Applications of ecosystem risk assessment in federal fisheries to advance ecosystem-based fisheries management

Executive Summary

Managing U.S. federal fisheries often requires considering complex interactions among fisheries, protected species, habitats, and other ecosystem components, including humans and climate. In addition, management that focuses on individual species can experience undesirable and unexpected changes due to unaccounted for impacts of climate or other ecosystem factors. Regional fishery management councils (Councils) need ways to efficiently process these interactions and the potential impacts they may have on meeting Council management objectives. One tool that can help with this is the ecosystem-level risk assessment (ERA), also called ecological risk assessments or vulnerability assessments. ERAs are management decision tools that can assist Councils in integrating large amounts of ecosystem information in a standardized, yet flexible and transparent way to help identify issues to prioritize in science or management. The purpose of this document is to share applied results from five regional case studies of ERA. The case studies cover different geographies illustrate how Councils can systematically approach ERA to help address current challenges and advance ecosystem-based fisheries management. To demonstrate the versatility of this tool, we organized the case studies by three different applications in the adaptive fishery management process: screening, prioritization, and evaluation. We emphasized broader ERAs that analyzed a number of different ecosystem drivers in one assessment. To improve the process of incorporating ecosystem information into fishery management decisions, we summarize key takeaways from the case studies. Finally, we provide additional recommendations for optimizing ERA use at the end of this report.

Rankin T. L., Frens K., Morrison W. E., Gaichas S. K., Zador S. G., Greene C., Aydin K., Reum J. C. & Holsman K. K., 2023. Applications of ecosystem risk assessment in federal fisheries to advance ecosystem-based fisheries management. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-OHC-11. Report.

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