Fisheries Technical Division

Division Overview

The Fisheries Technical Division covers a wide range of developmental, management and assessment issues in fisheries, ecosystems, and protected resources. We use established and novel scientific methods to support the sustainable management of fisheries and effectively communicate science to varied audiences.

Experience in the Fisheries Technical Division includes analysis of federal fisheries policy and management, ecosystem-based fisheries management, catch share fishery performance, technical analyses of fishery certification systems, review and evaluation of data collection programs, development and design of educational and outreach materials, coordination of working groups and workshops, and stakeholder engagement.

We have successfully worked with a variety of clients across environmental foundations, non-government environmental organizations, state, federal and international management agencies, fishery management councils, and industry groups. Our success is a testament to our strict adherence to science- and evidence-driven approaches. MRAG has in-house staff with experience to provide scientific capacity and advice across a range of specialized areas.

Policy/Governance

The development of environmental and fisheries policy requires consideration of a broad range of interacting factors. We understand the relationship between scientific research and policy development and recognize that the same set of scientific information may result in different policies, depending on the goals, objectives, and priorities of the policy makers. We provide clients with independent, unbiased advice and guidance on the preparation of coherent policy frameworks and the consequences of alternative decision pathways. The building of institutional capacity and capability is an important step on the path to the implementation of sound resource management and environmental policy. With our wealth of experience, we are well placed to offer advice, services and personnel to assist in the enhancement of institutional capacity.

Our Policy/Governance projects include:

  • An Evaluation of Rebuilding Plans for U.S. Fisheries (Client: Lenfest Ocean Program)
  • Applying the Precautionary Approach to NAFO (Client: WWF United Kingdom)
  • Reducing Fisheries Uncertainty: Investing to End Overfishing and Rebuild America’s Fisheries (Client: Marine Fish Conservation Network)
  • Guiding Principles for Guiding Principles for Development of Effective Commercial Fishery Monitoring Programs (Client: Environmental Defense Fund)
  • Technical support for the development of the Fisheries component of the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) Global Benchmark Tool for Seafood Certification Schemes

Fisheries Management

Assessing how the performance of a fishery changes in response to management intervention is challenging. Fisheries performance is often assessed against multiple, and potentially conflicting, objectives that include desirable economic, ecological and social outcomes. We provide expert practical advice and input across a wide range of fisheries and environmental development and management issues. We identify multidisciplinary teams to provide a comprehensive and integrated resource management service from initial characterization and assessment of the resource, through the design and implementation of management programs, to the subsequent regulation and monitoring of harvesting activity. Our integrated approach to resource management requires consideration of the physical, biological, technical, social, economic, and institutional elements of resource utilization.

Our Fisheries Management projects include:

  • Setting Annual Catch Limits for US Fisheries and Identifying Best Practices in Fisheries Management (Client: Lenfest Ocean Program)
  • US Caribbean Commercial Fishery Data Improvement (Client: NMFS, Southeast Fishery Science Center)
  • Western Atlantic Herring Management Simulation Analyses (Client: Lenfest Ocean Program)
  • Scoping for Review of CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife Commercial Fisheries Data Dependent Collections (Client: Resources Legacy Fund)
  • The Influence of Catch Share Management on MSC Assessment Scores (Client: Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation)
  • Fisheries Data Modernization (Client: Kingfisher Foundation)

Ecosystem-based Fishery Management

Ecosystem-based management (EBM) has developed in response to declines in the state of marine ecosystems worldwide, with degrading ecosystem services across all marine ecosystems. Collectively, practitioners are recognizing the increasing importance of providing scientific advice that considers the full range of human use and impacts across all sectors. Effectiveness and reliability of EBM require credible science, accounting for all user groups, and adapting to the changing needs of the environment and society. MRAG staff have considerable experience in comprehensive environmental analysis undertaking environmental assessments and preparing environmental impact statements. Projects include research to support the establishment of ecological reserves, essential fish habitat, implementation of ecosystem-based fishery management, identification of conflicts between fishing gear types, threats to non-target species (see separate section on Protected Resources), and design of guidelines to minimize the loss of biodiversity.

Our Ecosystem-based Fishery Management projects include:

  • Science Tools to Implement Ecosystem Based Management in Massachusetts (Client: Massachusetts Ocean Partnership)
  • Environmental impact statement (EIS) for the generic amendment addressing essential fish habitat (EFH) requirements for all Gulf of Mexico fisheries (Client: NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service)
  • Development of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Essential Fish Habitat for the U.S. Caribbean Region (Client: NMFS Caribbean Fishery Management Council)
  • Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Risk Analysis for West Coast Groundfish (Client: Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission)
  • Development of Public Awareness Materials focused on the issues relevant to Protecting the Eastern Caribbean Region’s Biodiversity (PECRB) (Client: Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States)
  • A Framework for Exploring the Role of Bioeconomics on Observed Fishing Patterns and Ecosystem Dynamics (Client: NMFS Northwest Fisheries Science Center)
  • Scientific Review of the Harvest Strategy in the US North Pacific Groundfish Fishery: Multispecies and Ecosystem Issues, including A Roadmap for Ecosystem Based Management in the BS/AI and GOA (Client: North Pacific Fishery Management Council).

Protected Resources

Protection and recovery of protected marine resources is critical for thriving marine ecosystems and a significant policy goal in many countries. Productive fisheries depend on a healthy ecosystem, of which many vulnerable species such as marine mammals, seabirds, turtles, sharks and corals are an essential component. MRAG has a history of successfully undertaking projects to evaluate risks, offer remediation, and apply precautionary principles in the management of protected resources. MRAG developed an analytical framework for assessing the effects of Alaska groundfish fisheries on listed species; modeled the effects of fisheries on the recovery of Steller sea lions in the North Pacific; tested gear modifications for mitigating the incidental mortality of seabirds; assessed international conservation activities for marine mammals, evaluated threats, identified gaps in conservation and management, assessed bycatch of endangered, protected and threatened species, and developed a strategic plan for international marine mammal conservation.

Our Protected Resources projects include:

  • Identify and Evaluate International Marine Mammal Conservation (Client: NOAA Office of International Affairs)
  • Modeling the effects of fisheries on the recovery of Steller sea lions in the north Pacific (Client: NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service)

NPRB Steller Sea Lions in a Changed Environment Study (Client: North Pacific Research Board)

Scientific Capacity

Accessible and reliable scientific advice requires qualified experts to be recognized and supported. MRAG provides scientific and technical services for government agencies and non-government organizations, along with convening technical workshops of experts to address fisheries science and management challenges.

  • Scientific Support for the Certification and Ratings Collaboration in understanding Wild Fisheries Performance Schemes (Client: New Venture Fund)
  • Scientific and Technical Services for NMFS, Office of Protected Resources (Client: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
  • Staff to Office of International Affairs, Coral Reef Conservation Program, NEFSC, and NWFSC
  • Project Coordination and Scientific Support Staff (Client: Massachusetts Ocean Partnership)
  • Ecological Valuation Index Workshop (Client: SeaPlan)
  • Fisheries Assessment Certification Workshop (Client: Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission)

Featured Projects

Measuring the Effects of Catch Shares

The Measuring the Effects of Catch Shares Project brings together a diverse team of researchers conducting data-driven analyses to measure the ecological, social, economic and administrative effects of catch share programs in the Northeast and West Coast Groundfish Fisheries. Analyzing a set of 14 neutral, scientific indicators designed to reveal ecological, economic, social, and governance effects of these two catch share programs, the project answers key questions that people often have about catch share programs. The analyses  are communicated entirely online using interactive graphics and write-ups that can be used by fisheries managers, fishermen, and other interested parties to determine how groundfish catch shares have affected fishing communities, fishing businesses, and fish stocks of the Northeast and West Coast.

Our project site is: www.catchshareindicators.org
Twitter: @catchsharestudy

Productivity and Susceptibility Analysis for Selected CA Fisheries

Vulnerability analysis based on a comprehensive screening of risk provides a precautionary evaluation of fishery resources risk to overexploitation. These assessments identify gaps and uncertainties in science and management measures leading to an inability to accurately estimate Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). Understanding a stock’s vulnerability can be a key piece of information for managing for uncertainty. One tool available for vulnerability assessments is a Productivity and Susceptibility Analysis (PSA), which is a method for ranking of the relative vulnerability of differing fish populations by mapping the populations in a chart that reflects both susceptibility and productivity scores. MRAG conducted PSA on a selection of California’s most significant fisheries in terms of commercial value and recreational participation. The assessment results will help the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to prioritize fisheries for future management actions.

This project was a first step in prioritizing management actions and the results will be built on during subsequent project activities.

Learn more about the work: www.oceansciencetrust.org/projects/era

Read the report: www.oceansciencetrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/CDFW-PSA-Report-on-Select-CA-Fisheries_Final-1.pdf

Contact

Jill H. Swasey
Director Fisheries Technical Division
MRAG Americas – Northeast
130 Centre Street, SH101B
Danvers, MA 01923
jill.swasey@mragamericas.com
Office (978) 768-3880

Project report and peer reviewed publications from our work are available on our publications page.

Global Experience

Our ability to service an extensive array of resource management needs is further extended through our network of collaborations with internationally acclaimed experts from academic institutions and other private organizations worldwide.

Publications

MRAG scientists are highly published in peer-reviewed journals and symposium proceedings, have presented invited papers at international meetings, and write large scale reports for governments and NGOs.