Editor’s note: Heather Welch is a research associate with the University of California at Santa Cruz and the (US) NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s Environmental Research Division. The Skimmer spoke with her about her research, which focuses on understanding and planning for the spatial and temporal dynamics of large-scale marine processes.
The Skimmer: We last covered dynamic ocean management and dynamic ocean management tools in 2014. Can you tell us a bit about how the field has progressed since then?
One area of progress is that dynamic ocean management is now better located within the larger field of dynamic management, allowing us to borrow concepts and methodologies from more established disciplines. Weather science has been developing dynamic management tools such as weather forecasts and hurricane forecast tracks for over a century. While on land, established dynamic management tools track floods, wildfires, and disease outbreaks. Understanding the parallels between dynamic ocean management and dynamic management in other realms allows us to leverage lessons learned and avoid reinventing the wheel.
Another area of advancement is that dynamic ocean management tools are moving towards producing forecasts. Initially, tools were producing hindcasts and nowcasts, i.e., predicting where species were last month and where species are today, respectively. Now, dynamic ocean management tools are forecasting species distributions days to seasons in advance. For example, the Atlantic Sturgeon Risk Model predicts Atlantic sturgeon habitat one to three days in advance to help fishers avoid the bycatch of these endangered fish. A seasonal forecasting system in the Great Australia Bight predicts the distribution of Southern bluefin tuna several months into the future to help fishers efficiently locate and harvest their target species. These types of forecasts give end-users time to plan ahead for future conditions.
Lastly, dynamic ocean management is moving from single-species tools to multi-species tools that can address greater proportions of biodiversity. Single-species management was a natural starting point for the field, but established methodologies and technological advances now allow for more complex tools. For example, TurtleWatch helps fishers avoid the bycatch of loggerhead and leatherback turtles. On the US west coast, EcoCast helps fishers maintain their target catch of swordfish while avoiding the bycatch of loggerhead turtles, California sea lions, and blue sharks.