Early warning of negative trends, for example, could help to set quotas.
"Once you overharvest, a lot of regulations kick in," Levin said. "By avoiding overfishing you don't get penalized, you keep the stock healthier and you're able to maintain fishing at a sustainable level."
The tool is named the JISAO Seasonal Coastal Ocean Prediction of the Ecosystem, which the scientist dubbed J-SCOPE. It's still in its testing stage. It remains to be seen whether the low-oxygen prediction was just beginner's luck or is proof the tool can predict where strong phytoplankton blooms will end up causing low-oxygen conditions, Siedlecki said.
The tool uses global climate models that can predict elements of the weather up to nine months in advance. It feeds those results into a regional coastal ocean model developed by the UW Coastal Modeling Group that simulates the intricate subsea canyons, shelf breaks and river plumes of the Pacific Northwest coastline. Siedlecki added a new UW oxygen model that calculates where currents and chemistry promote the growth of marine plants, or phytoplankton, and where those plants will decompose and, in turn, affect oxygen levels and other properties of the ocean water.
The end product is a nine-month forecast for Washington and Oregon sea surface temperatures, oxygen at various depths, acidity, and chlorophyll, a measure of the marine plants that feed most fish. Coming this fall are sardine habitat maps. Eventually researchers would like to publish forecasts specific to other fish, such as tuna and salmon.
The researchers fine-tuned their model by comparing results for past seasons with actual measurements collected by the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems, or NANOOS. The UW-based association is hosting the forecasts as a forward-looking complement to its growing archive of Pacific Northwest ocean observations.
Siedlecki's comparisons suggest
|Contact: Hannah Hickey|
University of Washington