Session: Innovative solutions for fisheries assessment and management

Sustainably managing our fisheries in the face of climate change requires early detection of population shifts and responsive, collaborative management. In this session we will explore how new eDNA tools and tracking of larval lobster trends are helping managers anticipate and respond to ecological changes. We will also learn about two creative strategies for improving the sustainability of the fishing industry, including a certification program for small scale fisheries and a co-management initiative for Maine’s wild clam fishery.

Implications of shifts in phenology of lobster larvae and Calanus finmarchicus on the temporal overlap of these species in southwestern Gulf of Maine.

In the Gulf of Maine (GoM), landings of American lobster have doubled since the early 2000s, and are currently at record-breaking highs.  Estimates of spawning stock biomass (SSB) are correspondingly high, but recruitment of young-of-year (YoY) lobsters has been declining since 2012 and is currently at sustained low levels. Here we build on our previous research describing correlative links between changes in the abundance of the copepod Calanus finmarchicus, a foundational zooplankton species of the pelagic food web, and recruitment of young-of-year lobster to benthic nurseries in the Gulf of Maine (GoM). Using both larval lobster and zooplankton time series collected on the New Hampshire coast since the 1980s, we address changes in larval lobster and C. finmarchicus phenology over the period. We found the earlier onset of the lobster egg hatch and first appearance of larvae were significantly correlated with ocean warming, but the last appearance of larvae has been delayed, thereby extending the larval season. Even with the longer larval season, since 2010, the C. finmarchicus season has been increasingly ending before the peak abundance of stage I lobster larvae. The net effect: a widening mismatch in phenology of the two species. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that changes in abundance and phenology of C. finmarchicus have contributed to recent declines in lobster recruitment.

Josh Carloni, New Hampshire Fish and Game

Joshua Carloni is the lead scientist in charge of lobster/crab monitoring and research for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.  He sits on technical committees for both American lobster and Jonah crabs, which are responsible for providing scientific advice and developing population assessments.  His research interest focuses on the distribution and movement of ovigerous American lobsters, and better understanding the effect that hatching locations and potential food sources may have on recruitment processes.  


New Technology for old problems: Applications of eDNA monitoring to further understand fisheries, water quality and management in Great Bay, NH

Our research group has piloted environmental DNA (aka eDNA) applications to monitor fish communities in the Great Bay Estuary, NH to better inform management decisions around coastal fisheries. eDNA is an emerging tool that can provide valuable information about a single organism or communities of organisms even across multiple trophic levels. This new method is often less labor intensive in the field and less disruptive to the environment. eDNA water samples were collected throughout Great Bay and run with the MiFish 12S primers to amplify fish DNA and 18S eukaryotic primers to identify invertebrates, algae and other eukaryotes. Using these data, we explored multiple applications of eDNA including (1) how well eDNA compares to traditional juvenile fish surveys monitored via beach seining, (2) evaluating fish communities across Great Bay’s key subtidal habitats (seagrass, oysters, mudflats), and (3) augmenting a long-term water quality monitoring program with fish composition data.

Chris Peter, Great Bay NERR

Alison Watts, UNH
Heather Ballestero, Great Bay NERR
Jeffrey Miller, UNH

Chris Peter sits at the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in NH as the Research Coordinator. He has been working in coastal systems for the past two decades, specializing in vegetated systems (salt marshes, seagrasses and dune) around issues concerning climate change and human development.


Collaborative policy development for shellfish fisheries management

The wild clam fishery is the second largest fishery in Maine by economic value and remains one of the most accessible fisheries for coastal communities. It is also a complex system facing many social, economic, cultural, and ecological changes, many of which are linked to climate change and globalization. The current municipal and state co-management system is not well equipped to adapt to these changes, which in turn results in adverse ecological and community impacts. In response to these changes, the members of the Maine Shellfish Co-management Initiative, along with shellfish ​harvesting communities, have partnered to cultivate a wide body of engaged research and applied projects focused on these impacts and stakeholder-driven solutions. These solutions include: improving information access, supporting new restoration activities to enhance shellfish populations, standardizing survey methods to expand data gathering, as well as developing collaborative policy initiatives to improve the co-management system. This session will explore these recent efforts to aid adaptation to the changing ecosystem by listening and responding to the needs of managers, harvesters, and coastal communities and strengthening communication across various social, cultural, and institutional boundaries. The session leads will share some examples of their work, and facilitate a discussion inviting participants to share knowledge and strategies for addressing the challenges facing clam fisheries.

Emily Farr
Jessica Joyce
Gabrielle Hillyer

The Maine Shellfish Co-management Initiative is a collaborative partnership to expand the adaptive capacity of shellfish co-management and tribal fisheries management. Our efforts are centered on convening and outreach with harvesters and those with local and Indigenous knowledge, and connecting across regional issues for a broader state-wide impact. The members of the initiative represent academic, non-profit, and private sectors, and collectively have decades of experience in fisheries co-management and policy. 


Co-Creating Accountability Indicators with Alternative Seafood Networks

As awareness around overfishing, habitat loss, labor abuses and issues of equity and access in fisheries have increased, certifications are being used to incentivize sustainability. However, certification schemes have been criticized for not fulfilling their purpose, being inattentive to socioeconomic and cultural dimensions of sustainability, and disproportionately disadvantaging small-scale fishing operators. These limitations, coupled with a specific interest in actively cultivating empowering models of shared accountability, warrant the exploration of alternative processes for encouraging sustainability in fisheries. The University of Maine is collaborating with the Local Catch Network, a network based around small-scale fisheries, and Sitka Salmon Shares, a Community Supported Fishery, to conduct participatory action research on accountability indicators. We used the Local Catch Network core values, based on caring for communities and the environment, as the starting point to design measurable metrics that could be used as the basis for a self-reflective or peer review tool. This research aims to take a step towards changing the way certifications are used and deployed in fisheries in North America and beyond by (1) co-creating measurable metrics for accountability among small-scale seafood enterprises in North America and (2) piloting a process that seafood enterprises can use to evaluate their operations relative to these metrics.

Paloma Henriques, University of Maine

Paloma Henriques is a graduate student in Marine Policy at the University of Maine. Her research focuses on operationalizing LCN core values in collaboration with seafood enterprise operators. Previously, she worked for Greenpeace at sea and on land, advocating for sustainable seafood among other environmental campaigns.