Developing a subseasonal ecological forecast to reduce fisheries bycatch in the Northeast U.S.

K. E. Roberts, J. E.F. Stepanuk, H. Kim, L. H. Thorne, C. Chong-Montenegro, J. A. Nye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the past decade, substantial progress has been made in projecting and predicting the spatial distribution of many marine species at seasonal to multidecadal time scales. However, managers and fishers often need to make decisions at much shorter time scales. Subseasonal environmental forecasts, which generate predictions over one to several weeks, can now be combined with species-specific habitat preference data to create ecological forecasts that could facilitate dynamic spatial management. The development of such predictive tools could aid in identifying optimal times and areas for fishers to maximize target catch and avoid nontarget catch. Nontarget catch, or bycatch, can have numerous and potentially severe economic and ecological consequences. Here, we focus on a population of anadromous fish known collectively as river herring (alewife and blueback herring), as they are species of concern and are heavily impacted by bycatch. Using bottom trawl survey data from the Northeast US and subseasonal forecasts of sea surface temperature, we constructed a bycatch risk model to generate probabilistic predictions of river herring distributions in regions frequented by the US mid-water trawl fishery. Assessments of model skill showed that our ecological model performed well in predicting the distribution of river herring and that subseasonal forecasts were effective at 1-week timeframes. There was a clear seasonal effect on forecasted bycatch risk throughout the Northeast US, with particularly high risk in winter and spring months. Importantly, variability in risk was detectable at the weekly timescale and our model identified specific areas and times that fishers should avoid in order to decrease their likelihood of bycatch. The bycatch risk forecast developed in this study is a significant advance from near-real time forecasts and the foundation to build forecast systems by combining species co-occurrence models with subseasonal forecasts. As these subseasonal forecasts are available globally, this approach could be adapted to facilitate the management of other natural resource conflicts around the world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103021
JournalProgress in Oceanography
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this research was provided by an award from the Modeling, Analysis, Predictions and Projections (MAPP) program at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Office (Award number 78874) to LHT, JAN and HK. HK was also supported by the Korean Meteorological Administration Research and Development Program under Grant KMI2021-01210.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Bycatch
  • Distribution modeling
  • Dynamic spatial management
  • Generalized additive models
  • River herring
  • Subseasonal forecasts


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