2. Project Summary

1969/12/31 - 20:00

2a.Title: A Mobile Bentho-Pelagic Observatory to Support Fisheries and Ecosystem Management

2b. Recipient institution: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA

2c. Primary contact: Scott M.Gallager, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, 508-289-2783 (voice), 508-457-2089 (fax), sgallager@whoi.edu

2d. Summary: The overall objective of the Northeast Benthic Observatory (NEBO) is to produce unique data products for fisheries and marine protected area managers to foster development of ecosystem approaches to management (EAM). Our unique approach allows us to collect and rapidly analyze data that are both spatially comprehensive (i.e., continuous coverage of large areas) and have high resolution (mm resolution of seafloor imagery). In conjunction with the Northeast Regional Association for Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS), we will observe and quantify key taxa, benthic community structure, species diversity, seafloor habitat characteristics, and coincident water column properties with repeated measurements on time scales of weeks to years. At test sites that have both high fisheries and conservation value, we will quantify how these communities respond to system change (climate events, fishing activity, position of oceanographic features [fronts], etc). This will require the fusion of disparate, synoptically acquired data sets, including high-resolution acoustic bathymetry and backscatter (on scales of meters to kilometers), stereo optical imagery (on scales of millimeters to meters), water column plankton distributions (microns to millimeters), and the development of image bioinformatic tools for classifying targets and substrates. Integrated data products will be developed and presented using advanced visualization tools so key fishery target species and non-target community responses to regulatory practices can be observed and quantified at multiple, relevant space and time scales, in relation to variations in seafloor habitat and boundary layer conditions. Data products will be incorporated into predictive community dynamics models for use in fisheries and sanctuary management. Data products will be of direct utility to fishery and conservation scientists, fishery and sanctuary managers, and environmental policy makers and evaluated for their impact on management practices through socio-economic modeling. Objectives: (1) To establish several key locations along the northeast coastline to be quantified using the instrumentation described below. Four areas are of primary interest: the western Gulf of Maine -including the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Great South Channel, Northern Edge of Georges Bank, and the outer Mid-Atlantic Shelf; (2) To develop the tools necessary to integrate and fuse disparate fisheries-relevant data sets, to segment and classify epi-benthic targets and substrate, and, to visualize the results in near real-time. Water column measurements acquired synoptically from NERACOOS buoy and gliders will be coupled with measurements in the benthic boundary layer (BBL) to provide a more complete understanding of local ecosystem dynamics; (3) To establish metrics for quantifying change in benthic community structure, organism abundance and size distribution of a variety of taxa relative to substrate composition in relation to water column processes. Socio-economic modeling will provide quantifiable metrics to evaluate the impact of NEBO data products on the management of fisheries and Marine Protected Areas.

2e. Partners: The principal investigators (PIs) are Scott M. Gallager (lead, WHOI), Hauke Kit-Powell (WHOI Marine Policy Center), Larry Mayer (Center for Coastal Ocean Mapping, University of New Hampshire), Peter Auster (National Undersea Research Center and Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut), Lakshman Prasad (Los Alamos National Laboratory), Richard Taylor and Norman Vine (Advanced Habitat Imaging Consortium), Michael Fogarty, Thomas Noji, Vincent Guida, Paul Rago, and Dvora Hart (NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service) Kathryn Ford (Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries). Additional partners include: Leslie Ann McGee and Sally McGee, Habitat Technical Team staff and Habitat Committee Chair (New England Fishery Management Council), David Wiley, Science Director (Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary), Lew Incze, (University of Southern Maine, and Chief Scientist, Gulf of Maine Census of Marine Life), Page Valentine and Walter Barnhardt (U.S. Geological Survey, Woods Hole Field Station), Sara Ellis (Gulf of Maine Mapping Initiative), David Bergeron and Olivia Free (Massachusetts Fisherman’s Partnership), in addition to all of the NERACOOS partners.