Recently, studies have indicated that reductions in forage fish fisheries worldwide are required to recover and sustain marine predator (e.g., seabird, marine mammal) populations. Moreover, delineation of ecologically important areas to protect predator trophic (feeding) interactions is needed for effective management of forage fish on appropriate scales. To conserve the forage fish community in the California Current Ecosystem (CCE), key scientific challenges include the need to quantify and implement spatially-explicit regional thresholds for forage fish fisheries. In this project we are tackling this important, yet heretofore unstudied aspect of forage fish conservation in this ecosystem. Given the diversity of predator species in the CCS, this is a substantial undertaking. Fortunately, much of the data needed to produce these models exists, yet just needs to be collated, processed, and analyzed. Once these models are developed, we will conduct targeted outreach to fisheries managers to both demonstrate the quality of the information as well as suggest how to apply model results in a practical fashion. In this manner we will integrate results into fisheries management strategies and tactical decisions such as harvest-control rules designed to protect ecosystem functions.
In this 24-month project we will undertake multiple interrelated tasks, including: (1) develop prey resource thresholds that significantly affect predator performance from numerical response modeling, (2) derive predator consumption estimates of prey from bio-energetic, 3) delineate ecologically important areas (EIA) for principal forage species and dependent predators, (4) quantify predator forage needs via model synthesis, and (5) disseminate predator needs products to fisheries scientists and managers. Our quantitative syntheses of predator needs will be able to fit directly into existing harvest control rules (e.g., sardine) as well as shape management of emerging fisheries. Spatially-explicit products will serve to further the implementation of marine spatial management. Outreach to federal governing agencies will include the National Marine Fisheries Service and Pacific Fisheries Management Council; state agencies include California, Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife, and the California Fish and Game Commission. This project is supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, and Marisla Foundation.