Protected Species Assessment Workshop

Novel methods for abundance and trends assessment and data poor bycatch estimation for protected species

NOAA Fisheries has a long tradition of holding Assessment Workshops focused on fish stock assessment.  This year, there will be a Protected Species Assessment Workshop. The workshop will be held January 17-19, 2017 at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Building 4, Seattle, Washington 98115.

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Research and Development

NOAA is committed, under its Healthy Oceans Goal, to two objectives directly related to protected species science and management: “improved understanding of ecosystems to inform resource management decisions” and “recovered and healthy marine and coastal species.” Evidence of progress toward these objectives over the next five years will include:
  • “Next-generation fish and protected resource stock assessments incorporating habitat, ecosystem, and climate information;”
  • “Living marine resource managers using high-quality data to inform management plans and decisions;”
  • “Stabilized or increased abundance of species that are depleted, threatened, or endangered;”
  • “Decreased bycatch of protected species;” and
  • “Increased number of protected species with improving status.”


These responsibilities fall under NOAA Fisheries jurisdiction, and meeting such objectives will require assessments of current and projected future status of the approximately, 429 protected species stocks in our jurisdiction (as of FY16). Achieving these milestones will require better integration of habitat and ecosystem characteristics, anthropogenic threats, and environmental factors. As NOAA Fisheries moves more toward an ecosystem-based framework, long-term, multi-platform and multi-disciplinary data collection is essential for next generation assessments. Additionally, these assessments for many species will require national and international collaboration on data collection and species management.


Internal Funding Allocations (IFAs)

PSSB is primarily involved in championing for and securing research funds to support basic and novel NMFS projects that would enhance scientific understanding and contribute to species conservation and recovery in the long-term. The PSSB administers two main Internal Funding Allocations (IFAs) grants: Ocean Acoustics and Sea Turtle Assessment IFAs.  In addition, PSSB staff provide technical advice and national coordination on a variety of protected species related research projects. 

National Protected Species Toolbox

Anthropogenic impacts are a serious conservation and management concern for protected and other non-target megafauna species such as sea turtles, marine mammals, sharks, and seabirds. In the USA, management actions and environmental policies are geared towards reducing impacts on critical species from fisheries bycatch, oil spills, and habitat and climate change. Implementing the appropriate regulatory or management action requires data and appropriate data-analysis frameworks. For example, under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, reference points are required to be estimated for all target and non-target species considered a part of the fishery. Under the Endangered Species Act, analyses are needed to inform the question of whether proposed actions will jeopardize listed species. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, limits to direct human-caused mortality and serious injuries must be estimated.

Common traits of many marine megafauna include slow life histories (long-lived, late-maturing, low-recruitment to adult stage), widespread distribution across political boundaries, and being poorly sampled by research surveys. These factors result in data scarcities and present a challenge to established assessment methods used to manage exploited marine populations that are frequently data intensive. 

Since 2013, the Office of Science and Technology, has supported the development of quantitative analytical tools at various NMFS Science Centers. The idea was to encourage cross-center collaboration and improve our R&D capabilities and be responsive to critical management concerns. This is a long-term investment. Between FY13 and 15, we funded seven projects. The overarching strategic approach is to develop various quantitative assessment tools, test them on common simulated datasets, and apply them to real datasets. Four of the seven projects focused on application of methods to sea turtle populations, given the immediate need and complexity of sea turtle management issues. However, the proposed approaches will be transferable to other protected and non-target species. A new suite of tool development projects have been proposed for 3-year funding from FY15 through FY18. 

National Protected Species Toolbox (NPST) Repository

List of Projects Funded (FY15-18)

Each thematic group is comprised of science and management teams and is individually led by two science center-based investigators.

  1. Coral Demographics (PIFSC, NCCOS and JIMAR), to develop spatially-explicit predictive maps for ESA-listed coral species occurrence, abundance, demographic patterns, and potential connectivity.
  2. Spatial Analysis (AFSC, SEFSC, SWFSC, and NWFSC), to develop or enhance existing spatial tools for various taxonomic groups (sea turtles, cetaceans, and pinnipeds) facilitating integration or effective use of different data streams (acoustics, fine-scale and broad-scale survey data, telemetry, photo-id) to generate improved protected species analytical models.
  3. Population Assessments (NWFSC, SWFSC, NEFSC, and SEFSC), to improve quality, transparency and national consistency in protected species population assessments and estimated population parameters (e.g. cetacean trend analysis, bycatch estimate calculation) and produce user-friendly interactive web tools to enable easy analysis and evaluation of different methods suggested above in management decision-making.

List of Projects Funded (FY13-15)

  1. Development of quantitative tools for assessing effects of anthropogenic mortality for marine turtle populations (SWFSC and NWFSC) - Year 1
  2. Development of quantitative tools for predicting protected species and fishery co-occurrence(SWFSC and NWFSC) - Year 2
  3. Advancing development of a limit reference point estimator for sea turtles, and evaluating methods for applying local management to highly migratory species (SWFSC)
  4. Development and evaluation of quantitative tools to assess the impact of anthropogenic impacts on marine turtle populations (NEFSC and SEFSC)
  5. Developing ocean ecosystem indicators for marine turtle juvenile recruitment (PIFSC)
  6. Development of quantitative and web-based tools for modeling marine animal movement and habitat use from satellite telemetry data (AFSC)
  7. Deploying protected species tools via cloud computing (NWFSC)    
NOAA Fisheries' Office of Science and Technology hosts National Protected Species Toolbox Mini-Symposium