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Commercial Fishing Behavior under Changing Ocean Conditions: Spatial Analysis of the US West Coast Salmon Fishery Public Deposited

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Suggested Bibliographic Reference: NAAFE Forum 2017 Proceedings, March 22-24, 2017. Compiled by Ann L. Shriver with assistance from Stefani Evers. North American Association of Fisheries Economists (NAAFE), Corvallis, 2017.


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  • In this paper we characterize changes in the level and spatial distribution of fishing effort during the extreme ocean temperature event known by oceanographers, climate scientists, and the public as “the Blob.”  The Blob was an unprecedented marine heatwave that occurred off of the Pacific Coast of North America from 2013 through 2016 and may have resulted in a variety of effects including changes in species range shifts,  low chlorophyll levels, and harmful algal blooms. Such extreme biophysical conditions may affect abundance or commercial catch of important pelagic species, including Pacific salmon.  We construct historical landings and effort from 1981-2015 in the west coast salmon troll fishery to evaluate coastwide and regional effort changes.  We use Vessel Monitoring System data from 2008-2015 to map and characterize the spatial distribution of commercial salmon fishing effort and qualitatively identify changes in distribution over time and across regions.  Preliminary results suggest that there are changes in level and distribution of salmon fishery effort coincident with “the Blob” and other extreme oceanographic events (e.g. El Nino events in 1992 and 1997).  Additional work will formally test these preliminary results. Unusual climate events will become increasingly common as climate change continues to occur.  Case studies such as this one will increase our understanding of the effects of climate change on commercial fishing operations and help develop methods for identifying impacts.
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