Fisheries Oceanography

Spring 2012, Monday/Wednesday 4:00-5:30 pm
Offered by: Elizabeth North

Fisheries Oceanography (3 credits) combines the disciplines of physical oceanography, biological oceanography and fisheries science to understand how environmental variability, ecosystems and humans influence harvested fish and shellfish populations. This course explores physical-biological interactions from small-scale processes that influence individual larvae to basin-scale oscillations in climate that shift ecosystems. Case studies of physical systems and fisheries from around the globe will be used to illustrate fundamental concepts in Fisheries Oceanography and help students develop a systematic approach for understanding, and predicting, how organisms respond to environmental and human perturbations. Emphasis will be placed on understanding and using quantitative tools that are fundamental to the discipline. The course will be offered over the Interactive Video Network. Special emphasis will be placed on learning about and running a larval transport model called LTRANS.

At least one of the following courses:
Physics of Marine and Estuarine Environments (MEES 661), Physical Oceanography (Meto 670), Biological Oceanography (MEES 621), Advanced Population Dynamics and Assessment (MEES 698D), Fish Ecology (MEES 631), Fisheries Science and Management (MEES 682), Introduction to Bioenergetics and Population Dynamics (MEES 634)
Permission of the instructor.


1. Introduction (1 week). From eggs to adults, what are the relevant physical and biological scales that apply to fish?
• Quick summary of fish and shellfish life history
• Mapping the world's great fisheries onto ocean features
• Scaling diagrams for physical processes and fish life history.
• Stage-specific variability in survival
• Separating the influence of humans from the natural system
• Major theories in fisheries oceanography (Member-Vagrant, Match-Mismatch, etc.)

2. Individuals and early-life (1 week). How does the small-scale physical environment influence fish and shellfish early-life growth and survival?
• Physiological tolerances
• Turbulence and stratification
• Capture – encounter – feeding success
• Sensitivity analyses

3. Larval transport (2 weeks). How do changes in circulation patterns and differences in larval behavior influence dispersal and settlement success?
• Transport between spawning and nursery areas
• Swimming behavior
• Settlement and habitat requirements
• Tidal rectification currents (Georges Bank and scallops), estuarine circulation (oysters)
• Particle tracking models

4. Growth and death in early life (2 weeks). How do physical conditions and vital rates interact to influence early-life survival?
• Physics: physiology and transport
• Prey
• Predation
• Benguela upwelling ecosystem, Baltic and North Seas comparison (cod and sprat), estuarine turbidity maxima (striped bass, rainbow smelt)
• Individual-based models (IBM), coupled IBM-particle-tracking models.

5. Adult and juvenile dynamics (2 weeks). How does environmental variability influence juvenile and adult life stages?
• Range shifts and physiological tolerances
• Adult and juvenile migrations
• Physical controls on swimming and digestion
• Hot spots (feeding at fronts)
• Growth and death across ecosystems
• Multispecies interactions
• Lakes, gyres (eel, tuna), and western boundary currents (salmon)

6. Closing the life cycle (2 weeks). How do physical conditions interact with the full life cycle and human harvest to influence fish and shellfish populations?
• Spawning: physical controls on location and timing
• Human effects: fishing, habitat alteration (overfishing; pelagic fisheries; fish farming genetics, parasites; trawling and deep-sea corals; wet ballast and invasive species)
• Population connectivity, metapopulations
• Coral reef systems, Gulf of Maine (lobsters), North Sea (herring), Georges Bank (ecosystem and cod)
• Egg production models, full life cycle models
• Graph theory for analyzing connectivity

7. Climate: the big picture (3 weeks). How does climate variability influence fisheries and ecosystems?
• Climate and the ecological geography of the sea
• Decadal oscillations in the Pacific: PDO, ENSO, sardines and salmon
• Decadal oscillations in the Atlantic: NAO and cod
• Global climate change
• Shifts in fisheries and fishermen
• Global climate models, genetic algorithms

Reading Material:
Separate chapters from multiple books will be provided. Here is an example of a book that we will draw from:
Mann, K. H., and J. R. N. Lazier. 2006. Dynamics of Marine Ecosystems. Third edition. Blackwell Publishing.

Exams and Grading:
Grades will be determined by a combination of in-class participation, assignments, a presentation, and a final research project. Assignments will focus on quantitative applications that illustrate concepts discussed in lecture and specific writing assignments. The research project, summarized in a final paper, will comprise 50% of the total grade.

Participation 10%
Presentation 10%
Assignments 30%
Paper 50%

Photo credits: Tammy Beeson, Ginger Jahn, Elizabeth North, Chuck Epifanio, SEAWIFS satellite