National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2016

Modelling spatially dependent predation mortality of eastern Bering Sea walleye pollock, and its implications for stock dynamics under future climate scenarios

Spencer, P.D., K.K. Holsman, S. Zador, N.A. Bond, F.J. Mueter, A.B. Hollowed, and J.N. Ianelli

ICES J. Mar. Sci., 73, 1330–1342, doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsw040, Available online (2016)

Arrowtooth flounder (Atheresthes stomias) are an important predator of juvenile walleye pollock (Gadus chalcogramus) in the eastern Bering Sea (EBS) shelf and have increased 3-fold in biomass from 1977 to 2014. Arrowtooth flounder avoid the summer “cold pool” (bottom water =2°C) and variability in cold pool size and location has affected their spatial overlap with juvenile walleye pollock. Developing a method to account for the relationship between climate change and pollock mortality can highlight ecosystem dynamics and contribute to better assessments for fisheries management. Consequently, spatially resolved predation mortality rates were estimated within an age-structured walleye pollock stock assessment population model (based on spatial information on diet and abundance from trawl surveys), along with the effect of sea surface temperature (SST) on pollock recruitment. Projections of SST and cold pool area to 2050 were obtained (or statistically downscaled) from nine global climate models and used within an age-structure population model to project pollock abundance given estimated relationships between environmental variables and predator and prey spatial distributions, pollock recruitment, and maximum rate of arrowtooth flounder consumption. The climate projections show a wide range of variability but an overall trend of increasing SST and decreasing cold pool area. Projected pollock biomass decreased largely due to the negative effect of increased SST on pollock recruitment. A sensitivity analysis indicated that the decline in projected pollock biomass would be exacerbated if arrowtooth flounder increased their relative distribution in the EBS northwest middle shelf (an area of relatively high density of juvenile pollock) in warm years.

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