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Spatial Analysis of Groundfish to Support Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan

This project began in January 2010 and was completed in December 2011

Coastal planners need accurate and accessible information on marine resources to make good management decisions. We analyzed groundfish trawl surveys to map groundfish abundance and diversity off the coast of Oregon. The maps are being used by the State of Oregon in its Territorial Sea Plan to balance the needs of ocean uses (e.g., shipping, fishing, renewable energy production) and environmental conservation.

Why We Care
Groundfishes, such as flounder and sole, play an important economic role in the state of Oregon. As a result, there is increasing interest to better understand how marine life is distributed in the sea as old and new ocean uses compete for finite space. States and federal agencies are being challenged to balance human uses (e.g., fishing, shipping) with energy development and environmental conservation. Knowing the distribution of important groundfish communities will help inform spatial management decisions; reduce ocean-user conflicts; protect ecological areas and values; and find the most suitable sites for ocean energy development.

What We Did
We analyzed existing fishery-independent trawl data collected by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service and flatfish trawl data collected by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State University. Analyses were used to develop continuous and fine spatial scale predictive models for hotspots of density abundance and diversity of the entire fish community and a group of nearshore species. The nearshore species group included: Sand Sole, English Sole, Pacific Sanddab, Speckled Sanddab, Petrale Sole, Starry Flounder, and Butter Sole.

Spatial modeling was carried out in close partnership with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy. A number of environmental predictors associated with position on the shelf, sea floor habitat, depth and oceanographic productivity were used to predict areas with relatively high groundfish abundance. An innovative method of using multiple predictors for the same ecological attribute (e.g., depth) but at different spatial scales was used to include fish-seascape interactions over multiple spatial scales. Data products were formatted so that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife could immediately integrate the data into their Territorial Sea Plan.

Next Steps
We hope to extend this type of spatial analysis to the entire Pacific Outer Continental shelf and are currently discussing this expansion with all west coast states and federal agencies working in the Pacific. These maps are being used by the State of Oregon to develop its Territorial Sea Plan.

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